1.31.2009

TAKEN.

I read a pretty good description of this movie a couple days ago that I think fits it nicely: Jason Bourne (of the movies, not the books) gets older and has a daughter, then the daughter gets kidnapped and he goes after the bad guys. Bryan Mills (Liam Neeson) used to work for the government as a sort of super-agent. But after his wife Lenore (Famke Janssen) splits with him and takes their daughter Kim (Maggie Grace) to live with her new husband Stuart (Xander Berkeley), he retires so that he can live closer to them and make up for lost time. Soon after Kim’s seventeenth birthday, her friend Amanda (Katie Cassidy) invites her to spend the summer in Paris. Reluctantly, and with conditions, Bryan signs the papers (as she is underage) to go out of the country. Unfortunately, not long after they get to Paris, both are kidnapped and sold into human sex trafficking. So now it’s up to Bryan to get to Paris and hunt down who is responsible and get his daughter back, no matter what.


I’m a fan of anything Luc Besson is involved with (writer/director/producer), from his more brilliant works (Leon, Angel-A) to his more brainless fun (The Transporter). So when I heard that he had his hand in writing this script, I knew I was there. So where in the Besson-Spectrum does it fall? It’d say it’s somewhere in the middle, teetering on the edge between. I wouldn’t say it’s fully brilliant as there is a vast expanse of action and little-to-no character development. But I wouldn’t say it’s brainless, either, because there is a depth to it.


Some will say that the movie starts off slowly, but I disagree. I think that the first twenty or so minutes are really important in doing what so many action movies these days skip: setting up the relationships between the characters. Without seeing how deeply caring and devoted Bryan is to his daughter, would we care as much as we do when he does eventually go on his rampage through Paris? I’m not so sure. And I think the setup works well to help with that.


As far as the actors go, Liam Neeson was a bit stale at times, but at other times I knew he was the only person who could have pulled off some of the dialogue he was given. Famke Janssen, for the little we see of her, does well as the pain-in-the-ass ex-wife who refuses to give Liam a break. I’ve read some people had a problem with Maggie Grace playing a seventeen year old (convincingly). But I didn’t have any issues. She’s not in the movie long enough for me to have really cared how well she did. Though that’s another thing I think the movie does well. Most Hollywood action movies always cut to the kidnapped victim and show his or her (usually her) side of the story. After Kim is kidnapped, that’s the last you see of her until her dad finds her, so you don’t know if she’s going to be dead or alive when he gets there until the truth is finally revealed. It helps with the suspense.


Overall, I thought it was pretty good. There were a few logistical issues that I had, but they weren’t so big to where it would ruin the movie as a whole. There’s some good action and some intense moments (though, oddly, for a movie about human sex trafficking, no nudity). So if you want a good action movie that actually has characters you can care about and a decent plot, I’d recommend it.


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I Am McLovin!

1.30.2009

P.E.S.T. (+1).

A day late, I know... but oh well. Pre-Emptive Strike Thursday (+1)!

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Title: The Uninvited.

Pre-Thoughts: I haven't really been interested in this at all (when has a remake of J-Horror turned out good?), but even major critic reviews have been fairly positive. I might eventually check this out, though probably not until DVD. Who knows?

Pre-Score:
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Stop Saying Okay! Okay.



Title: Taken.

Pre-Thoughts: I thought it seemed interesting by the trailers. But then I discovered that it was produced and co-written by one of my favs, Luc Besson (Leon, La Femme Nikita, Angel-A, The Fifth Element, Unleashed, etc.). His works that he has more say in (writing/directing) are generally better than the ones he just produces, so I have hopes for this. The movie has gotten some so-so reviews, but I blame the other writer, as Besson was only a co-writer (sounds like a good excuse to me). But this is pretty much a definite for me.

Pre-Score:
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I Am McLovin!



Title: New In Town.

Pre-Thoughts: No. And it was a no even before I read the "this is one of the worst movies ever made" reviews. (I only gave it the following pre-score because of the involvement of J.K. Simmons, who would have to at least bring it up a notch).

Pre-Score:
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The Zed Word

1.29.2009

FROST/NIXON.

Irrelevant, but you know it’s sad when you go to buy your ticket, and the guy behind the counter goes “Hey, you got a haircut!” Anyway, on to the movie. As you all know, this movie tells the story of television celebrity David Frost (Michael Sheen), who gets a sudden urge to interview Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) soon after the Watergate Scandal. Also involved are Sam Rockwell, Kevin Bacon, Oliver Platt, Rebecca Hall, and Toby Jones.


As you could probably gather from my pretty short synopsis, I don’t have much to say about the film. It’s kind of aggravating, really. Yes, the acting was great (with the exception of poor Toby Jones, who nearly made me want to laugh at his really forced tough-guy New York accent. Though I guess it’s more laughable when you realize this is the same guy who voiced Dobby the House Elf in Harry Potter). I also loved the symbolism with the shoes throughout the film.


But I really don’t have any overarching negative things to say about the film. I was never bored during its 2-hour time frame. It kept my attention, and I really enjoyed the film. If it were anything, it would be the depiction of Nixon. For a guy frequently described as quiet and to himself and who is horrible at small talk, the only time he ever felt awkward doing any small talk was during the scene it’s actually mentioned in the film. Before that, after that, he seemed perfectly capable of and not awkward at all about chit chatting with anybody.


And in the end, the movie was just, overall, too safe. Ron Howard made a rather predictable film. And I don’t mean that in the sense we all know what happens in the end (the boat sinks! Wait…). But I mean it in that even before I went in, I knew he was going to open it up with audio and/or video of real footage from Nixon and use that every now and then through the film. And the film didn’t make the characters/people anything more than they are set up to be: a naive man who gets some balls and overcomes his opponent (Frost) or a troubled man who comes to terms with what he did (Nixon). Everything was rather straight forward in its presentation, and there wasn’t really anything that made me go “Oh, wow, look at how he did that/portrayed that.” So while I really enjoyed the film as a whole (though they could have shown more of the actual interview stuff, in my opinion), it was no major stride forward in political biopics. But it wasn’t a step back, either. I’d recommend it.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. This was a very difficult score to give. I think I really only gave it this score because of the superb acting. Otherwise, it would have gotten a very strong McLovin. So this is a weak 'Whoa', but a 'Whoa', nonetheless.)

1.26.2009

DVDs Or Death!

I'm being lazy today, but let's do this! DVDs Or Death!


Fireproof.

Brief Synopsis: Some Christian Movie About Firefighters And Marriage.

Comments: Just the (actual) premise of the movie makes me wanna gag. And the insanely awful acting from the trailer didn't help. Nor did Kirk Cameron.

Viewing Option: Skip (or burn... who's fireproof now?!).



RocknRolla.

Brief Synopsis: It's Guy Ritchie, So... I Really Have No Idea.

Comments: But I wanna see it. Looks like some good dark comedy with some brutal action. It's on my Netflix already.

Viewing Option: Rent.



Pride And Glory.

Brief Synopsis: Colin Farrell And Edward Norton Are Cops. Or Something. I Really Don't Know (Or Care).

Comments: Despite two good actors (well, one good, one awesome), the movie got awful reviews, and I really never cared enough to see it in theater even before I read the reviews. But I'd still like to watch it eventually if just for the two leads. So, yeah...

Viewing Option: T.V.



Lakeview Terrace.

Brief Synopsis: Sam Jackson Is A Crooked Cop And A Really Terrible Neighbor.

Comments: This actually appealed to me... but again, got awful (like... terribly awful) reviews. I still might check it out, though.

Viewing Option: Rent.

1.24.2009

Short Review: Resident Evil: Degeneration.

Premise: Claire Redfield and Leon S. Kennedy get caught up in another T-Virus attack.

Starring: The voices of Alyson Court, Paul Mercier, Laura Bailey, and Crispin Freeman.

My Reaction: The CGI animation was terrible and distracting (I’ve really seen better CGI in video games), especially Claire’s face. The voice acting was awful. The dubbing itself was way off the mark (again, distracting). The dialogue was overly melodramatic and cheesy. For being one of the fan-favorite characters, Leon has the personality of cardboard (or Hayden Christensen… not much of a difference). The Tyrant looked like bad Claymation. For a zombie/monster movie, there was very little blood. Hell, TV’s CSI has more blood. While it did share the atmosphere of the games, even the action was mostly boring (with a couple exceptions). The whole movie as a whole was rather boring. And if you’re not a hardcore fan of the games, you’d probably get completely lost by the story. Finally, where the hell did that woman’s boobs come from at the end? All of a sudden, she has a D-Cup. It was so random. Anyway, it was just awful/terrible/awfully terrible/terribly awful all around. There were only a couple scenes that made it remotely interesting or entertaining, and those didn’t last very long.


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The Zed Word

(P.S. And I'm being quite generous with this (rather ironic) scoring).

1.23.2009

INKHEART.

It’s sad that, even if you’ve never read the book the movie is based on, you can still tell when something has been changed, cut, or added. But more on that later. Mo (Brendan Fraser) has a unique ability: if he reads aloud, he can bring things out of the stories he’s reading. But there’s a rule to go with it: if at least one person comes out of the book, somebody has to go in. Unfortunately, he didn’t exactly know he had the power. Years ago, he read from a book entitled Inkheart, where he accidentally brings out some awful baddies, all led by the evil Capricorn (Andy Serkis), as well as the selfish (but good) fire-twirler, Dustfinger (Paul Bettany). But since people came out, somebody had to go in. And it just so happens to be his wife, Resa (Sienna Guillory). So now, years later, we catch up with Mo and his teenage daughter Meggie (Eliza Bennett), who travel through Europe searching old bookstores. Meggie has no idea her father’s abilities until Dustfinger shows back up in their lives, with Capricorn close behind. So now, along with help from Meggie’s great aunt Elinor (Helen Mirren); Farid (Rafi Gavron), one of Arabian Nights’ forty thieves; and Inkheart’s author, Fenoglio (Jim Broadbent), they have to figure out a way to keep from Capricorn’s clutches while bringing back Resa and getting Dustfinger what he wants most: to get back in the book.


Wow, that was complicated. But that about sums up the plot with most of the major characters. The plot really is somewhat straightforward, and it does jump from place to place (read: plot point to plot point) with no real shown travel in between (unless it serves as a plot point). And with the size of the book that I’ve seen in the stores, I know there has to be more to it than what this movie showed.


And I figure what was cut had to be all the character development. Now, the highlight of the film was the wonderful cast of characters. Ironically, this almost excludes Mo and Meggie, who are honestly the least interesting of the bunch. But the best was Dustfinger. Paul Bettany really owns this movie, and it probably helps that he’s really the only character with a satisfying character arch or development whatsoever. Helen Mirren also has an excellent character (and from what I’ve read, is one of the more faithful-to-the-book characters). The most disappointing thing with the characters was the relationship between Dustfinger and Farid. You can tell there was something there, trying to build itself like it would have room for in the book, but it ultimately falls flat. Also, how the heck does Farid teach himself how to do the Dragon’s Breath thing? I felt that was the most bizarre part that needed much more explanation.


And then we get to the ending. I won’t spoil anything, as I can give enough information without giving anything away. The climax ultimately tries to be much more epic than it really is. There’s all this chaos and fighting, but it doesn’t seem to show almost any of it, focusing more on the characters watching and reacting to what’s going on than actually showing what’s going on. And there should have been much more of a fight between Mo and Capricorn. I mean, after the history between the two characters, you’d think they’d do more than that. Then the actual ending of the movie comes in. And this is more where I was going with my opening statement. Normally, if Hollywood forces an ending change to something, they try to make it at least dovetail with what’s already been given so you can’t tell. Not this movie. Even without reading the book, I can give the exact moment where the book ending stops and the movie ending begins. It’s just too jarring. The two specific characters start walking off together, and then here Mo comes, running down the road… making most of what we just saw in the previous scene pointless. Not to mention they threw in mention of a possible romance that comes out of nowhere. There weren’t even hints or looks or exchanged words or anything throughout the entire movie, and then there’s a line like “I know you like her.” And I’m all… “Huh?”


But anyway, I know the bulk of this review has focused on some negative aspects, but you have no idea how weird I feel writing this review. I really don’t know what to talk about. I did actually really enjoy the movie, specifically Paul Bettany and Jim Broadbent (as a writer, I thought it was fun and hilarious to see his reactions to his characters being alive, which is something a lot of writers daydream about). The characters, for the most part, were really fun (even if there’s little-to-no development). And the concept itself was great. I still want to read the book, and the movie makes me want to read it even more so I can see all the development and whatnot that was removed. So overall, it was a fun movie… but not much more than that.


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I Am McLovin!

1.22.2009

P.E.S.T.

Two weeks in a row! Doing good! It's time for Pre-Emptive Strike Thursdays!

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Title: Underworld 3: Rise of the Lycans.

Pre-Thoughts: I own the first. I saw the second in theater, but wasn't overly impressed. However, this third installment--which happens to be a prequel--actually looks like it could be decent. I might be up to checking this out.

Pre-Score:
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I Am McLovin!




Title: Inkheart.

Pre-Thoughts: I guess this movie just kept getting pushed further and further back (because I've been seeing previews for this movie for over a year) until it landed in January (which is never a good sign). And after my last venture into Brendan Fraser-land (Mummy 3), I'm left with a bad taste in my mouth. However, although I haven't read the books, I adore the concept. Plus, Andy Serkis is doing a (villainous) role that doesn't involve motion capture or Peter Jackson. Color me intrigued.

Pre-Score:
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I Am McLovin!




Title: Killshot.

Pre-Thoughts: Speaking of movies that seem to keep getting pushed back, I swear I saw previews for this at least over two years ago. Honestly. At first, I had no idea what this was until I read up on the plot and the cast, and then I recognized it immediately. It's a thriller staring Diane Lane (alright), Thomas Jane (better), Mickey Rourke (even better), Rosario Dawson (cool) and Joseph Gordon-Levitt (awesome). However, I did say that it was a thriller, right? Then why the hell is it being directed by the guy who did Shakespeare In Love and Captain Corelli's Mandolin? Maybe a rent... down the line.

Pre-Score:
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Feed Me, Seymour!




Title: Frost/Nixon.

Pre-Thoughts: I'm listing this because it's finally coming to my town. I'll definitely be checking it out.

Pre-Score:
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A Keanu 'Whoa'




Title: Last Chance Harvey.

Pre-Thoughts: Again, it's just now coming to my town. And while Dustin Hoffman and Emma Thompson excite me, the actual movie doesn't. Oh well.

Pre-Score:
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Stop Saying Okay! Okay.

DVD Review: Repo! The Genetic Opera.

So the nearly year-long wait is over. I’ve finally seen it. I would have reviewed this sooner, but I honestly needed to watch it twice. After the first viewing, I was left without any real words to describe how I felt about the film. After the second viewing, I’m almost in the same boat as the first viewing, but I’m pretty sure I’ve got some better thoughts in order.


In the not-too-distant future, a worldwide epidemic of organ failure spreads death and chaos. But then Rotti Largo (Paul Sorvino) builds GeneCo, a company that will lend you brand new organs and other such body parts, but at a price. And if you can’t pay your debts, they send out a Repo Man, a legalized assassin, to come and kill you and take back whatever it is you had put in. But now Rotti is dying and needs to give his company to somebody, though he hates his three children: the violent Luigi Largo (Bill Moseley); the face-wearing Pavi Largo (Ogre); and the surgery-addicted Amber Sweet (Paris Hilton). So he then sets his eye on Shilo Wallace (Alexa Vega), the daughter of Repo Man Nathan (Anthony Head), whose deceased wife Marni (Sarah Power) used to be his own lover. Shilo has been kept locked in her home all her life by her father due to having the same lethal blood disease that killed her mother. And everything culminates at the epic Genetic Opera, headlined by Blind Mag (Sarah Brightman). And all of this is tied together with the use of comic strips and the Greek Chorus-like Graverobber (Terrance Zdunich).


If you couldn’t tell, the plot is a bit complicated. But at the same time, it isn’t. There is a lot going on, and there are a ton of plot twists, just like any normal Opera. And that’s the thing to keep in mind when going into this movie: you have to think of it like an Opera. Practically every line is sung, no matter how inconsequential. But I also think this is one of the movie’s few downfalls, as well. The movie is described (quite appropriately) like mixing Rocky Horror Picture Show (due to its absurdness) with Blade Runner (due to its dark, dystopian setting). But I also would like to attribute it to Sweeney Todd (due to the gore, as well as a few other things that I’ll be getting to).


So let me start by discussing the music, as that’s the most important part of the film. Honestly, the music is hit or miss. Like Sweeney Todd, I felt the movie had a much stronger second half (as soon as Zydrate Anatomy begins). There are two types of songs in this movie. The first type is the ‘talky’ songs, in which there are countless numbers of all throughout. These are the ones that basically get the plot from one place to the next. They can sometimes seem awkward and forced, too, like the creators just had to have every single line sung, no matter how weird or out of place it sounded. The second type is the ‘musical’ songs. These are the ones that really make the movie shine, the types of hit songs you would expect from a musical. They aren’t just little snips to go from one point to the next, but great, toe-tapping, (sometimes hard-rocking), make-you-wanna-sing-along songs.


Now, the first half of the movie was made up of a lot of the ‘talky’ songs and only a few ‘musical’ songs tossed in. But while the ‘musical’ songs were good, they were just too few and far between. And the first half was much more focused on the gore than the music, it seemed. But once the second half starts up with Zydrate Anatomy (personally, one of my favorites in the film), the gore nearly disappears and becomes a more alluded-to thing. And then the movie has almost completely become one great ‘musical’ number after the next, with only a couple ‘talky’ songs thrown in.


And even though it’s a Rock Opera, there are many different types of songs to find in the film. There’s the heavy rock, the grunge rock, and even a bit of actual Opera. But ironically, it’s the Opera, I feel, that seems most out-of-place in the movie. Luckily, though, the Opera-esque songs are few and far between, and they’re only sung by Sarah Brightman and Paul Sorvino, who both have amazing voices.


And to get on to the actual singers/actors, let me first start with those aforementioned two. Sarah Brightman is, by far, the best singer in the film, even though she’s physically not in it a whole lot. But her Chase the Morning is another one of the best songs of the film, and it’s one of the most inventive, as the refrain is sung by Sarah Power’s Marni through a hologram ejected from her eyes. It’s nuts. On the other hand, Paul Sorvino, while he has a great voice, gets the worst songs of the film. They have him singing all over the place, doing a huge chunk of the ‘talky’ songs, and sometimes even interchanging mid-song from the ‘talky’ voice to his ‘Opera’ voice. Needless to say, that did not bode well with me.


But after Sarah Brightman, the two I felt had the best voices (and songs) in the film were Anthony Head (whom you might recognize as Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Terrance Zdunich (who is actually one of the co-creators of the original stage play, as well as reprising his role as the Graverobber). These two men actually had the ability to make even the ‘talky’ songs entertaining, which is good, considering a good chunk of what they did were along those lines. But of course I had to give it out to Terrance, as Zydrate Anatomy is basically his big number. But the only thing about Anthony Head that seemed a bit weird was he had a Gollum/Sm√©agol (or maybe Batman/Bruce Wayne—Christian Bale version) thing going on. He would flip back and forth from loving/caring father and crazy Repo Man, altering his voice to go along with it.


Then, of course, we have Alexa Vega, who actually does really well (I would hope, since she’s basically the main character). Her voice cracks every now and then, but I think that was a character thing. And finally, the Largo siblings: Paris Hilton, Bill Moseley, and Ogre. Let me just put it this way: Paris Hilton was the least irritating of the three. Actually, I agree with most reviews of the film. Paris Hilton was born for the role and does it perfectly. But then again, that’s not hard to do when the role you’re playing is a spoiled, talentless heiress to a multi-billion dollar corporation. Ogre wasn’t too bad, either. He just had a distractingly clich√© Italian (for no reason) voice. Though he did wear the (painted white) faces of his female lovers that he’d killed, which is neat. Though the worst casting, by far, in the entire movie, was Bill Moseley. He acted the part way too over-the-top, annoyingly, and just plain silly. It was totally out of tone for the movie, and his singing wasn’t that hot, either. He and Ogre were like the unneeded jesters of the film, ruining the overall mood.


So I’ve talked about the plot. I’ve talked about the music. I’ve talked about the singers/actors. I guess I could comment on a few of the littler things. For instance, I’m still not sure what to make of the comics-o-exposition that are scattered throughout the movie. The movie itself begins with a 3-minute sometimes-animated comic strip that gives the backstory of the movie. And then, at random intervals, the movie will freeze-frame on a character and give their sketched self to segue into the comic book ‘backstory’ of that character. I suppose it’s an interesting and unique way of doing it, and it does save time showing the little strips of explanation. But at the same time, it gets somewhat old after a while. Not to mention, depending on your TV, some of the text on the comic strips can be cut off on the screen, so you have to make some quick (though usually easy) guesses as to what’s written there (as none of it is read to you in voice-over or anything).


Overall, the movie fell a bit shorter than what I had expected. It tried a bit too hard at times to keep its non-stop singing ‘Rock Opera’ thing. The ‘talky’ songs only worked half the time; the other half they were just forced and awkward. But the ‘musical’ songs, practically every single one of them, were excellent. And the movie does have its fair share of those. But the film also has trouble with its tone. Sometimes it tries to be dark and broody. Sometimes it tries to be slapstick and silly. I think it should have picked one or the other—either it took itself seriously or it didn’t. Like I said, even though there are some really good songs in the first half, I much preferred the second half of the film. Finally, something I didn’t really comment on before, the movie itself (visually) looks excellent. There are so many great visuals, from the costumes to the settings. My final verdict? I’d say check it out, but make sure to know what you’re getting yourself into beforehand. Plus, any movie that can actually make Paris Hilton look good (by any definition of that word—looks, acting, singing) is a movie to check out.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

1.19.2009

DVDs Or Death!

Again, I haven't done one of these since October! But I thought it was high time to bring it on back. It's time for DVDs Or Death!


Moonlight: The Complete Series.

Brief Synopsis: Vampire Detective Falls In Love With Human Reporter.

Comments: How very Twilight-esque, I know, but it's so much better. I caught this short-lived television series while it was still on TV, and it was quite original. It's so sad that it only lasted so short a time, but if you're a fan of vampire stories, I'd really recommend this series. It's a lot of fun.

Viewing Option: T.V. (if I can find reruns... though I recommend others who have not seen it to rent).



Saw V.

Brief Synopsis: The Fifth Installment In The Saw Series.

Comments: It's certainly not one of the strongest in the series, but it's required for any fan. Like many penultimate chapters in a long series, it's mainly the calm before the storm. All the questions start to rise to the front, there's less action, and you get antsy for the conclusion. And it's been known for a while that Saw VI is going to be the end. So I think of this installment as just that: the slow, questionable calm before the epic storm.

Viewing Option: Buy (What? I have all the others).



Henry Poole Is Here.

Brief Synopsis: A Story About A Guy That Finds Jesus... On His House.

Comments: I wanted to see this, but not only did it not come to my town, but it didn't get the greatest reviews. I still want to check it out, though.

Viewing Option: Rent.


Max Payne.

Brief Synopsis: A Detective Hunts For The Truth Behind Drug-Related Murders.

Comments: Well, I didn't think the movie was terrible. It wasn't awesome, but it wasn't as terrible as most people say. It had some really cool visuals, even if the story was a bit of a mess. But I don't think I'll be going out of my way to see it again.

Viewing Option: Skip.


City Of Ember.

Brief Synopsis: An Underground City Loses Power... And It's Up To Two Children To Help.

Comments: Again, I thought the premise sounded fun, and I heard the book is good, too. But then I heard the movie was quite a mess. I might just wait for this one to hit the old telly.

Viewing Option: T.V.



Igor.

Brief Synopsis: What Would Happen If Frankenstein's Helper Helped Himself.

Comments: It looked cute, and it has a great voice cast. It didn't get terrible reviews, either, from what I remember.

Viewing Option: Rent.


The Express.

Brief Synopsis: True Story Of First Black Guy To Win Heisman Trophy.

Comments: I was never a big fan of sports movies, especially football movies... which got very old after a handful being released every single year.

Viewing Option: Skip.



Repo! The Genetic Opera.

Brief Synopsis: Rock Opera About Organ Donation.

Comments: I've been waiting for this movie for a very, very long time, regardless of its including Paris Hilton (who I've actually read is, honestly, good in this movie. Perfect for the role). But I'm incredibly excited that it's finally hitting DVD. It has endlessly brilliant reviews on both IMDb and Amazon, with only a negative one sprinkled here or there (and those people always sound like crotchety old men with sticks up their butts), so that's even more exciting. And on top of that, it's been described as Rocky Horror Picture Show meets Blade Runner meets Sweeney Todd. How awesome is that? I also read that, at some point, three of its songs were up for Oscars. Obviously that's not the case with all the songs chosen in the Globes and elsewhere, but it still says something, right?

Viewing Option: Buy.

1.18.2009

Short Review: Snatch.

I finally got around to watching this. I was confused as hell. So I gave it a second chance before reviewing it. Here we are.


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Premise: A bunch of random people are all randomly connected to a diamond heist.

Starring: Benicio Del Toro, Dennis Farina, Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham, and Brad Pitt (among a bunch of others).

My Reaction: The beginning montage bit was, and still is, incredibly, mind-bogglingly confusing. To the point it messes with me for the remainder of the movie. The acting was brilliant all around. The editing style was brilliant, as well. I particularly liked the juxtaposition of the Coursing with the chasing/questioning of the one thug guy, as well as the slow motion fall into the dream-water during the boxing match and that whole little segment. I also really liked the ending, though it utterly confused me the first time around (mostly due to being linked with the incredibly confusing opening). I wanted to like this more, but the more I think about it and try to connect everybody/everything, the more my brain hurts. Too much interconnected randomness going on all at the same time. But for some odd reason, I still liked it.


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I Am McLovin!

1.16.2009

MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D.

What happens when you remake a cheesy 1980s slasher flick into a 3-D slasher flick in 2009? You get a cheesy 21st century slasher flick. In 3-D. Ten years after a miner brutally kills 22 people on Valentine’s Day, the killings pick up once more on its anniversary. Tom (Jensen Ackles), one of the survivors of the previous killings, returns to the tiny town to sell his dad’s mine. But he’s met with either hatred or confusion from the townsfolk, including ex-flame Sarah (Jaime King); her husband, Sheriff Axel Palmer (Kerr Smith); and friend-of-Tom’s-father, Ben (Kevin Tighe). And everybody starts to not only think that Tom had something to do with the previous killings, but that he’s somehow a part of the new ones, as well.


There’s a reason that the trailers focused mainly on the 3-D aspect of the film and not much about the plot or characters: the movie would pretty much suck without it. So let’s talk about the 3-D first. It really didn’t make the movie any scarier, honestly. The pick-axes and whatnot in the face didn’t make me jump. In fact, it was almost annoying because they didn’t often use the effect to its full potential. There were a ton of moments wherein they could have done something, and they pull away or change the angle so that the 3-D isn’t effective at all. But what the 3-D does is put you in the movie with them and increases the tension because of it. It bettered the atmosphere, in other words. And what it did in the suspense department, as I said, weren’t really with the sudden in-your-face moments, but the slower, more drawn out moments. Like if a gun slowly pans across the screen and points out at your face. You have no idea if it’s going to fire or not, and that makes you nervous. So I felt the 3-D was better used there than anywhere else.


But in the scariness department, I do have to say that the film did have some tense moments. Now, would it still have been nearly as suspenseful without the 3-D? I strongly doubt it. But in the 3-D version, it was able to hold up some decent moments. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the gore. And my God, do we have some gore. This movie showed some things that the Saw films would only show in quick flashes. But the goriest stuff happens within the first 10 minutes. After that, it’s still there, but never to the level it was during the opening.


As for the story, it was awfully confusing. There were some pretty obvious plot holes, and then some other stuff that was never even explained, unless I was just too distracted by the 3-D in the opening montage-o-exposition. For instance, why the hell was the miner killing people to begin with? I know they said the miners were buried in a cave-in and he killed the others to have more air… but what does that have to do with following it up with a killing spree? Or with Valentine’s Day? And what is the fascination with the hearts? Where did that come from? It’s all incredibly random. Not to mention you can see the twist at the end from a mile away. It’s been so overdone to the point that it cannot surprise anybody anymore.


The acting was pretty awful, too. When they weren’t being killed, the actors and actresses were showing off their daytime soap opera talents. Granted, it wasn’t anywhere near the awfulness of The Spirit or Diary of the Dead, where acting just didn’t exist. This was more like they were just trying way too hard. Though I have to give it up to two performers. First, Jensen Ackles wasn’t that bad. He actually did a pretty decent job when he wasn’t trying to remind me of Freddie Prinze Jr. And then there’s Betsy Rue, who gives us at least 5+ minutes of full-body nudity. Her acting sucked, but she bares it all. And I mean all. It was so surprising, I don’t know if I were more surprised at the fact they actually showed so much for such lengths of time or the fact that it was in in-my-face 3-D.


Anyway, the only way I’d recommend seeing this movie is in 3-D and if you like old school horror/slasher flicks. It’s definitely a throwback with the cheesy acting and story and Final-Girl-Runs-Through-Woods sequence. And then the Why-The-Hell-Are-You-Going-In-There sequences. There were a lot of illogical moments, as well, all throughout the movie (with a serial killer on the loose, why the hell would you keep your gun specifically unloaded?). And, as I said, there are some pretty glaring plot holes. Unless you’ll just do anything for a gore-fix, if it didn’t come to 3-D in your town, I wouldn’t bother. That’s the only reason, I think, it was as good as it was. Granted, it wasn’t awful. It did have some pretty suspenseful and entertaining moments. But it’s no grand comeback of a genre.


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Stop Saying Okay! Okay.

1.15.2009

P.E.S.T.

Holy crap. A Pre-Emptive Strike Thursday? I know what you're saying to yourself: "Thou hast not giveneth one of these since... well, by God! October of year last!" And I reply to thee: "Hai! But thou shalt have one post-haste!" ...or now, really.

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Title: My Bloody Valentine 3-D.

Pre-Thoughts: The movie looks like crap and in no way scary, but it's the first 3-D horror film since like... the early 90s? And it's actually coming to my town... in 3-D. Hell, I don't even think Spy Kids 3-D came to my town in 3-D. So this is pretty big. I might have to check it out just for that.

Pre-Score:
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Feed Me, Seymour!




Title: Notorious.

Pre-Thoughts: A movie about infamous rapper Notorious "Biggie Smalls" B.I.G. (or is is Biggie "Notiorious B.I.G." Smalls? Who the hell knows). Anyway, I think it's funny that it's a movie about the relationship between Biggie, Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, and Tupac... and it's actually being produced by Sean Combs. And Sean Combs is not playing himself. What I find even more interesting is that everybody knows Biggie for his relationship with Tupac and the whole murder thing... yet the trailers, as far as I'm aware, don't even show Tupac. Or if they do, they don't mention him by name. Anywho, I'm probably gonna skip this one.

Pre-Score:
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Stop Saying Okay! Okay.



Title: Defiance.

Pre-Thoughts: Oh goodie. Another WWII movie. This time with James Bond. In a forest. (Just to note, it doesn't look bad. I just have no incredible urge to go out and see it right away).

Pre-Score:
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I Am McLovin!



Title: Paul Blart: Mall Cop.

Pre-Thoughts: Kevin James. Funny guy. Paul Blart. Stupid name. Mall Cop... seriously? A movie about a mall cop? I couldn't figure out the tone from the trailers, either. Was it supposed to be a slapstick comedy? Or was it supposed to be some kind of action thriller with comedy thrown in? To me, the tone looks something along the lines of Home Alone 3 (or was it 4?). Either way, that's not a good thing.

Pre-Score:
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Stop Saying Okay! Okay.



Title: Hotel For Dogs.

Pre-Thoughts: Another movie that couldn't find its tone in the trailer. It starts out as some kind of mystery. Maybe even horror. And then the dogs show up, and it gets all cutesy. Then they build machines that take care of the dogs. This movie has 'mess' written all over it.

Pre-Score:
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The Zed Word

1.10.2009

LKMYNTS: The Girl Who Leapt Through Time.

Based on what is apparently the most-adapted novel in Japan, The Girl Who Leapt Through Time takes a somewhat different approached (or so I’m told), and not just because it’s anime. Makoto is a senior in the Japanese equivalent to high school, has no idea what she wants to do in life, and just plays baseball with her best friends, Chiaki and Kousuke. But during the worst day of her life (that should have actually ended with her death), Makoto discovers that she can travel back in time. Even ignoring the slight guidance given to her by her Auntie Witch, Makoto selfishly uses the ability on insignificant details that, like most time-travel movies, cause incredibly significant alterations. And things only get worse and more awkward when Chiaki decides to ask out Makoto, which she only wants to ignore as if it never happened, starting a rift in their friendship and their lives in general.


When I first read of this movie, and even when I started watching it, I felt it was something like mixing The Butterfly Effect with Groundhog Day. But it turned into something much more. This movie has such a realism to it for being a movie about time travel. Sure, it has the obligatory montage of her trying to make the same situations better time and time again (much like Groundhog Day), but unlike Groundhog Day, and more similar to The Butterfly Effect, even if she thinks she did a good thing in the past, not all good can come from it in the future. And the movie is much more focused on the relationships between the characters (primarily Makoto, Chiaki, and Kousuke) than the time traveling, which was a nice. It hasn’t been since WALL*E (even though this movie technically came out first) that an animated movie made me laugh, tense up in suspense, and nearly cry (sometimes within the same 5-10 minute frame).


Like most anime or foreign films, it’s much better with subtitles instead of dubbing. However, the dub wasn’t completely terrible, either. The English voice actors for Kousuke and especially Chiaki were really well done. But it was Makoto’s voice that was a bit stiff at times and could have been suited by a better actress (especially considering they got a 13 year old to do it, when the character is at least 17 or 18). But in its original Japanese language, it’s fine, though the subtitles have the tendency to move by very fast at times. There were moments where I had to pause or rewind the movie to see all of what was said. But that only happened on occasion.


Besides the story, however, the greatest things about this film were the visuals and the music. To start with the visuals, I’ve read a lot on this movie that say “It’s no Miyazaki” or “It’s just a throwback to a more classic anime style.” I think some of these people have gotten spoiled by Miyazaki’s style to the point where they can’t appreciate anybody else. This movie is beautiful. You can’t compare it to Miyazaki, anyway, as he does more fantasy-type films, while this is a more realistic (with a touch of sci-fi) film. And in a time when the majority of anime have giant robots, brooding themes and characters, endless bloody action, and dark settings, this movie is full of vibrant colors, rich tones, and some breathtaking scenes (such as any of the frozen time moments). And the music just added to it. It’s stunning when the beauty of the music matches up with the beauty of the visuals so well, and this movie perfects it. I could buy this orchestral/classical soundtrack and just listen in awe.


If there were any negatives to the film, it would lie in with the Auntie Witch character. As I said in the opening, they tried to do something a little different this time around (outside of animating it). They made this movie a pseudo-sequel to the book, but from what I’ve read, it’s one of those sequels that’s almost exactly like the original, except with different characters and a new setting. However, apparently, the Auntie Witch character was the main character from the book, who pretty much went through a lot of what Makoto does, so she references the occurances of the book every now and then (there’s a sequence near the beginning where she talks about how it’s normal for girls to time leap because she, too, did it when she was Makoto’s age. This threw me off completely, as I had no idea what that meant until after the movie). So yeah, if you’ve never read the book or don’t know anything about it, her inclusion in the movie is going to be pretty confusing. But another thing with her is that she always seems to know that Makoto can time leap, even if she traveled back in time to before she told her initially. Now, maybe it’s just that Makoto has to keep re-telling her, but they never address the issue in the movie. They also never show resolution with a particular other character whose life goes to crap due to the time alterations (but I think it’s easily assumed what happens because of what Makoto does without having to be shown).


Besides that, there’s only a couple other scenes near the end that only seemed to be there to lengthen the movie (which is only an hour and a half or so). There’s a pointlessly extended ‘running’ scene. There’s also an almost Return of the King-like ending where it just doesn’t feel like it’ll ever stop. But all in all, it was a beautiful film that I really do recommend. If you don’t like reading subtitles, there’s not a whole lot wrong with the dubbing outside of one or two voice actors (in fact, there are actually a couple very slight script alterations that I liked better in English than in Japanese. Otherwise, it’s almost exactly the same as the subtitles). It’s just that one of those voice actors to put up with is the main character. It’s a fun, heartfelt drama that’s mixed with some fun sci-fi (amazingly enough, the explanation for the time leaping doesn’t suck and is actually pretty good). So yeah. Check it out.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

1.09.2009

GRAN TORINO.

What an ironic movie to be sitting right near a teenage girl who decides to text on her cell phone for the majority of the movie (including during the part at the beginning where Eastwood gets annoyed with his teenage granddaughter for texting at an inappropriate time). Gran Torino tells the story of the incredibly grumpy and racist Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood), a Korean War vet who lives in the past. After his wife passes away, he’s left alone with his dog in a ghetto filling up with Hmong families. But when his shy young neighbor Thao (Bee Vang) tries to steal his prized 1972 Gran Torino in order to fit in with his cousin’s gang and is later saved by Walt from the same gang, Walt’s relationship with the rest of the neighborhood begins to change, primarily with Thao and his sister Sue (Ahney Her). Also on Walt’s case is the young priest at his local church, Father Janovich (Christopher Carley).


Let me simply start out by giving the only real negative comment I have of the movie: the acting, for the most part, was pretty bad. The only two who give a pretty good performance are Eastwood and John Carroll Lynch as his barber (who is in all of two scenes), and even Eastwood’s performance is basically him flaunting his good ‘ol days to his Dirty Harry fans. I’ve read other negative comments on the film, such as it is no deeper than its surface level, and while that’s true, I’m not going to say that’s negative. Even if it is only surface deep, I still enjoyed it immensely for what it was. So let’s get on to the rest of the review.


This movie was so much funnier than I expected. I read that the character would make you laugh, but I didn’t expect how much. This movie should have been advertised more as a vulgar comedy than a gritty drama. And it is rather vulgar. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this many racial slurs in one movie, and that includes both American History X and Clerks 2 (the whole scene where Randall’s “bringin’ it back.”). It’s a very politically incorrect film, so if you’re easily offended, stay away.


I think the movie takes its time to get to its plot, but that didn’t really bother me, because the relationships between Walt and the other characters was equally entertaining as the one between Walt and Thao. Okay, so I lied. I did have one other small negative thing to say about the film. The transition for Walt seems slightly forced to me. To go from a lifetime of racism and hatred to eating barbeque and having a good time with his neighbors in such a short span, and only because he gave one of them a ride home? It seemed a bit far fetched. But I went with it anyway.


But anyway, I thought it was a really good film. It was highly entertaining, even if it made you shake your head while you were laughing at all the politically incorrectness. I don’t think it was the best film of the year as so many have said, but I don’t think it was as bad as some of the naysayers have said, either. With a little more polish and a much better cast (specifically for Thao and Sue), I think this movie could have been outstanding. But because of those few little clunks (wow, I almost made and incredibly accidental racial slip there), it fell just short. But still, it was a really, really good film overall.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. What the hell was with that song at the end? Clint Eastwood needs to never... ever sing again, especially a song with lame lyrics).

1.08.2009

As If It Were A Boggart In The Closet...

Riddikulus!

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has been rating freakin PG. How that's possible, I have no idea, considering it has three of the darkest scenes (Sectumsempra, The Cave, and a particular death) before the final book. Not to mention all the snogging. Insanity! They better not eff this up.

(Seriously, isn't this a major step backwards considering the last two were PG-13? Let's just hope it's still as awesome as the early reviews have said and they didn't cut or trim anything and that the MPAA are just idiots as usual).

1.07.2009

Unrelated To Movies: I Request Your Assistance!

To take a break from the recent onslaught of reviewing I've been doing, I'd like to ask all of you a favor (if you have the time).

I'm entering one of my novels into the Amazon.com breakthrough novel award contest that begins in February (the winner of which gets a $25,000 book deal with Penguin, Inc., and anybody who knows anything about the publication world knows how huge Penguin is). Anyway, the novel I chose is the best fitting for the contest; however, while it has one of my favorite stories/plots, I don't believe it's my strongest on a stylistic level. And I keep hearing that it's great, the style works for the type of story, etc., etc. (and this from people who wouldn't hesitate to tear it to shreds if it were bad). But like any writer, I'm hard on myself.

So that's why I come to you, the people who don't really know me on a personal level. I've posted up a preview/excerpt of the novel and would like your input. It's less than 5000 words, so it's not like it's an insane amount. It's just a prologue and the first chapter of the book (though you'll see it labeled as chapters one and two. This is because, for the contest, I had to re-title the prologue as chapter one). There are questions and a star-rating thing at the link with the excerpt, as well. If you don't find, for whatever reason, that you have enough space for all your comments, you can always comment here.

If you do this, please keep all comments constructive. You don't have to be all positive or anything about it... but just don't be like 'omg this is gay go die'. But if you don't like something, tell me what it is and why. If you do like it, then awesome. Anyway, besides all that, I suppose the last thing I have for you is the link.

Click Here.

And thanks again!

Short Review: Man On Wire.

Premise: A documentary about the true story of the man who (illegally) tightrope walked a wire between the World Trade Center buildings.


Starring: Philippe Petit.


My Reaction: It’s been listed as one of the best films of this past year. All I can give are random thoughts: I loved Philippe’s narration. He was so descriptive and poetic and vibrant in his speech that it was just fun to listen to him. I loved how the whole thing felt like a heist film, but there was never any heist (they actually say this in the doc, as well). I thought it was interesting how they did the back-and-forth timeline (showing how it was going with the stunt, then popping back in time to show how they got to that point), even if it got confusing sometimes. And though the movie sometimes felt like it was dragging a bit, it was truly a great and inspirational piece. I also enjoyed how they did the dramatic re-inaction of all the past events, so that the film was so much more ‘show’ than ‘tell’. And besides Philippe looking like Colin Mochrie (with hair) and Jim Moore looking like John McCain… that’s about all I have.


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A Keanu 'Whoa'

(P.S. And that's a very strong 'whoa')

1.06.2009

Altered Opinions: In Bruges.

This past summer, I bought and watched In Bruges on a whim after hearing so many good things and even thinking it looked good from the previews. What I saw, like many others, gave me mixed emotions. I went in expecting a straight-up comedy, and what I got was a very dark drama with some comedy thrown in, all of which discussing the meaning of life, the afterlife, and other moralistic themes. And then, of course, the ending… the whole movie caught me off guard. But I thought it was worth a second chance, so I waited for a second viewing before giving it a review it deserved. But unfortunately, I never got around to a second viewing until now.


Ray (Colin Farrell) and Ken (Brendan Gleeson) have just left a hit-gone-bad and are hiding out in Bruges until they get word from their boss, Harry (Ralph Fiennes). While they’re there, Ray flirts with Chloe (Clemence Poesy) and hangs out with a midget/dwarf actor named Jimmy (Jordan Prentice). But between Ray’s newfound depression and dislike for the fairy tale city of Bruges and Ken’s newest assignment, things aren’t going exactly as either of them ever thought they would.


This second time through, going in with the right frame of mind, I was able to appreciate the movie much more than before. From the beautiful cinematography that captures the splendor of Bruges to the haunting musical score always dancing in the background, every aspect of the film works together masterfully. And you know from the opening moments of the movie with its deep, resonating, melancholy theme that you aren’t in for a lighthearted romp.


The acting is high caliber all around, from the usually ‘hit-or-miss’ Colin Farrell to the Harry Potter alums, Brendan Gleeson, Clemence Poesy, and Ralph Fiennes. Farrell works the emotions of the film: he has all the jokes, making you laugh when he’s saying something politically incorrect or ranting on or when he’s making you cry with him on all his troubles. Brendan Gleeson is the big brother: wiser and watchful, and always trying to make sure Ray is getting the best out of his life. Clemence Poesy has probably the shallowest of the characters (in depth, that is), but that doesn’t stop her from making you like her even when she’s doing something not-so-likeable. But then Ralph Fiennes shows us his range once again by giving us the foul-mouthed, slightly dim but very dangerous Harry Waters (irony in the name there considering what most people these days will know him for).


But amidst all the drama and heaviness, there is a fair bit of comedy, though it is rather dark and usually insulting. But that didn’t stop me from laughing. But I just think it was a sign of great writing when the movie can go from joking about a karate-knowing lollipop man to a sad, touching moment in the span of seconds. And the way it can just keep bringing jokes back (“A bottle?! AH!” or any of the karate jokes), but never overusing it and knowing when to stop (unlike some movies) is good.


In the end, even the second time through, I was bouncing back and forth over how to score this movie. But I like when movies play with themes and have good character development, and this movie was really good on both, especially in the very last moments/words of the film. And even if the film leaves it open, it’s still in the closing words that it really got me. So with that, I’ll finally leave you with a rating.


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Royale With Cheese

1.05.2009

Overrated Movies: Dance of the Dead.

Everywhere I looked, I saw nothing but high praise for this movie. They called it the next best thing for zombie films since Shaun of the Dead. And since I love zombies, and Shaun of the Dead is one of my all-time favorite movies, I had to check it out. And… well… uh…


Dance of the Dead has a pretty simple concept (and even a good one). On the night of the Prom, the dead rise from the grave and start eating people. And with the giant buffet waiting for them at the Prom, the only people left to stop them are the ones who didn’t go or couldn’t make it to the dance (for whatever reason). And it has the whole Breakfast Club ensemble, from the nerds to the cheerleaders to the punk rockers and the rebels.


Along with Shaun, the other movie that I heard this get compared to a lot was Return of the Living Dead. And that scared me, because I freakin hate Return of the Living Dead. It’s the bottom of the barrel on zombie movies and, to me, a disgrace to the genre. And unfortunately, Dance of the Dead was way more like Return than Shaun.


The best parts of the movie were the parts without the zombies, and for a zombie movie, that’s not a good thing. The opening bits with the character interactions were good and relatable, and all these are what reminded me of Shaun of the Dead. But once the zombies start up, that all seems to dumb down a lot and just get silly. My other favorite part was anything with the Gravedigger.


But with the actual zombies, everything was wrong. Let me just say that the second I heard them moaning for “Brains,” the movie started to go down on my rating scale (zombies cannot talk, nor do they prefer brains over any other part of the body). Then they did the next annoying thing, which is that just because you decapitate a zombie does not mean it is dead. What? Of course it does! Separation of the brain from the body equals zombie death! And this also means that if you cut off a limb or whatever, that said limb (whether it be legs, hands, etc.) should stop moving. Both of those things were two major issues that made me really hate Return of the Living Dead. But then we get to some other dumb stuff in the movie. Apparently these zombies can break down an engine or drive cars, but they can’t open a front door or break through a window. Oh, and punk rock music makes them stop attacking…. Huh?


There are so many things that bugged me about this movie. Even outside the zombie stuff and just under the actions of the characters, it just kept falling further and further into the realm of nonsensical and over-the-top silliness. Even the gore (which was plentiful) was just way too fake and over-the-top for my taste. The movie did get a few tiny chuckles out of me, though that was more toward the beginning. And as much as it set up all the characters and relationships in the first 10 or 15 minutes, I really didn’t care too much about who lived or died, which takes away most of the suspense. Even the awesome set up of a big epic zombie battle was just a set up for an ultimate let down (it’s like the final Twilight book all over again). Not to mention the movie was mostly predictable. So I hate to be against the norm on this movie, but that’s just how it is. This is not the next coming of Shaun of the Dead. This is just a slightly better done version of Return of the Living Dead.


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The Zed Word

(P.S. Ironic rating, huh?).