July 8, 2009

Fifty Percent

Now that 2009 has passed the half way point, let's look back on what came out in terms of  best and worst.


...Looking: Star Trek. It must be seen to be believed. The special effects on tap here easily beat out the explosion fueled romp that was Transformers, thought that one still looked good. The cinematography is superb as well. The brilliant looking trailer only hints at the beauty in store for you. 
Runner(s) Up: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Public Enemies

...Guilty Pleasure: Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Transformers 2 is a terrible movie. You know that going in; you know that going out. You know that at home; you know that everywhere else. The thing is, you don't know that when you are actually watching, because it is so God damn ridiculous and fun, that you just don't care. I don't advise seeing it twice. After the first time, you do start to care. 
Runner(s) Up: Friday the 13th

...Job Staying Faithful to Source Material: Watchmen. Yeah, the movie is about as faithful as it gets, for better or worse. Pretty much every scenario from the incredible graphic novel is included, and handled really well, mind you, but a lot of it is kinda boring, given how talky this thing actually. Even so, it's probably the best adaptation we would have gotten, regardless of that awful sex scene. 
Runner(s) Up: State of Play, Terminator: Salvation

...Animated: Up. No competition. No need to write anything. It's Pixar, for God's sake!
Runner(s) Up: NONE!! (To be honest, I haven't seen another animated movie so far this year)

...Comedy: The Hangover. Just thinking about this hysterical film brings a laugh to my throat. This movie is so funny. All the performers display brilliant comic timing. The writing is sharp and witty. The scenarios are ridiculous and hilarious. It's the perfect comedy. 
Runner(s) Up: I Love You Man

...Action: Taken. Yes, Star Trek was the better movie, but Taken had better fights, better shootouts, and better car chases. A strong performance from Liam Neeson doesn't hurt either. Sure the movie sucked otherwise, but in terms of sheer violence and thrills, it's difficult to beat. 
Runner(s) Up: Star Trek, Terminator: Salvation, Watchmen

...Drama: State of Play. It's nice to see a decent political thriller these days. What better way to vent our frustration at the government by going to movies where said government is the antagonist. Good performances from Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Helen Mirren, and Rachel McAdams elevate the somewhat shoddy material above the rest of the pack. A good pick. 
Runner(s) Up: Up

...Performance: Johnny Depp in Public Enemies: Put simply, Mr. Depp is John Dillinger. When he steps on screen, you forget that he is an actor. You are seeing Public Enemy Number 1 up there. It's mesmerizing.
Runner(s) Up: Zachary Quinto in Star Trek, Jackie Earl Haley in Watchmen

...Overall: Star Trek. I never thought I'd say that a movie in the Star Trek franchise would be the best piece of cinema I had seen so far this year, but, I've always been able to surprise even myself. JJ Abrams and crew have done a fantastic job making Star Trek accessible to millions of people. Rock solid performances from Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Karl Urban, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana, and others do so much to elevate this movie from good to great!
Runner(s) Up: Public Enemies, Up

And, now, onto the opposite of these movies. Enjoy the public executions. They're all for you!


...Looking: X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Good luck not seeing the scene where Gambit jumps through the air and prevents a massive rock from falling on Wolverine and thinking that it didn't look fake. The special effects, given the budget, were, in a word, awful!
Runner(s) Up: Knowing

...Guilty Pleasure: Knowing. It should have been a guilty pleasure, a smart apocalypse movie. But a stupid plot, awful performances, and a grim and depressing ending make this movie one sad thing to sit through. Nicolas Cage should really have his head examined. If you want to feel really sad and suicidal, see this movie. If you want thrills and some cool, apocalyptic destruction, look elsewhere. 
Runner(s) Up: I don't know. The phrase guilty pleasure implies just that, pleasure. So, I guess, Wolverine.

...Animated: Nothing. Gotta be honest, haven't seen any other animated movies so far. I would put Up here, seeing as it's the only animated movie I saw, so it is technically the worst, seeing as I have nothing to base it on. But, that would insulting the genius that is that movie. So, nothing here. Yay!
Runner(s) Up: NOTHING!

...Comedy: Bride Wars. Anne Hathaway, what is wrong with you? You deliver such a genius performance in Rachel Getting Married, and you follow it up with, Bride Wars? What? Are you serious? How stupid do you have to be to star in this unfunny, boring, stupid, alleged comedy. You're lucky you're so damn pretty!
Runner(s) Up: Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, Land of the Lost

...Action: X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Like I said my review, the action scenes are really boring in this movie. I blame the director, who has no experience with action. Why do studios insist on legitimizing their action movies by bringing in award winning directors who have no idea how to excite the audience with action. Why couldn't they have gotten someone like Christopher Nolan, Ang Lee, or Peter Jackson? We'll never know now.
Runner(s) Up: Push

...Drama: Knowing. Like I said, a stupid plot and awful performances do nothing for this movie. All the actors overplay it to an uncomfortable point; the color palette is trying to get somber tones, but only succeed in making you roll your eyes. Director Alex Proyas even pulls a Michael Bay and pans to a mournfully waving American Flag after a particularly grim scene. Cheap shot!
Runner(s) Up: Killshot

...Performance: Megan Fox in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. I know. I know. She's hot. Shut up! Doesn't change the fact that kinda sucked in this movie. It's obvious that she is bored with role, so we are bored watching her. Then again, she doesn't serve any purpose other then to be a target that all the boys with holes in their pockets can ogle at while they feverishly and sweatily tug at, OH MY, I should stop!
Runner(s) Up: Nicolas Cage in Knowing, Lynn Collins in X-Men Origins: Wolverine

...Overall: Knowing. See above. 
Runner(s) Up: X-Men Origins Wolverine

To Come Throughout the Rest of 2009 (Hopefully): (500) Days of Summer, The Hurt Locker, Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince, Bruno, G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, Inglourious Basterds, It Might Get Loud, District 9, 9, Nine, Shutter Island, Funny People, Taking Woodstock, The Informant, Surrogates, A Serious Man, Zombieland, Couples Retreat, An Education, The Road, 2012, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, Armored, Brothers, Avatar, Sherlock Holmes, Invictus, The Lovely Bones. 

July 1, 2009

It Has Gunfights, Bank Robberies, Car Chases, and Johnny Depp. What Else You Need to Know?

Well, that was welcome diversion. Now that the "big" movie has come out this summer, Hollywood has decided, like it does every year, to start releasing the 'cough' good 'cough' movies again. I guess they figure that once they get all the idiots into one theatre to leer at Megan Fox's bouncing bust area, they've done their job, and start catering to the rest of us, somewhat, intelligent folk. First off the assembly line is Public Enemies, courtesy of Michael Mann. It adds a much needed dose of quality into the summer season while simultaneously being very entertaining. 
So, if you know anything about American history, then you've probably heard of this little time in early to mid 1900s called The Great Depression. In case you don't, it boils down like this. The stock market went belly up, and, all of sudden, people found themselves without jobs, homes, or money. A dollar couldn't buy you shit! So, some people tuned to crime, ushering the largest crime wave in recent memory. The most prolific criminal during this time was John Dillinger, who took down bank after bank, earning the title of Public Enemy Number 1 from the FBI, led by world class scumbag J. Edgar Hoover, and respect and love of millions of people around the country, who viewed him as a modern day Robin Hood. In order to bring down Dillinger, Hoover assigns decorated agent Melvin Purvis to the case. What follows is fascinating 2 1/2 hour trip into 193os America, with all the fedoras, accents, cars, and Tommy Guns. 
Johnny Depp plays Dillinger, and he is sure to get yet another Oscar nomination this year, which he he might even win. His performance as the most renowned criminal in US history is a bona fide tour de force. He drenches Dillinger with charisma, but also makes sure to stay true to the darker side of the man. It's all in the eyes. Depp's Dillinger wants the attention. He wants to be in the spot light, and when he is, he knows how to handle it. Put simply, he makes the character cool. Like, really cool. Like, John Travolta in Get Shorty cool. Well, maybe not, but it comes close. Christian Bale plays Dillinger's opposite, Melvin Purvis. It's vastly different from the gruff, gravely voiced characters we've seen him play in The Dark Knight or Terminator: Salvation, which is a good thing. Bale excels at playing this G-Man who, while on opposite sides of the law from Dillinger, is not so different from him. He wants to hog the camera as much as his target, but, you get the sense that he has become slightly delusional by the power he has, as he bears witness to the brutality allowed by his boss, Hoover, played by a superbly slimy Billy Crudup. It's not Bale's best performance, but it's up there. The last big role falls to Oscar winner Marion Cotillard as Billie Frechette, a half Indian, half French-Canadian, coat check girl who Dillinger moves on so hard it terrifies her at first. But then, she falls for his lavish ways, and willfully follows him wherever he goes. Cotillard is sensational as Billie. I still get a little steamed about how she beat out Julie Christie at the Oscars a few years ago, but, I'm gonna let that slide, because she is so friggin' good in this movie! She radiates beauty and fire in every scene she is in. No wonder Depp falls so hard for her. There are a lot of other smaller performances, but I still have to talk about all the other good things in this movie, so, I'll leave them be.
Director Michael Mann is no stranger to the urban crime epic. He gave us Heat, Collateral, and Miami Vice. He sometimes gets hamstrung by weird story and stupid characters in these movies, but, it cannot be denied, he can shoot the hell out of them. Public Enemies is easily his best looking movie yet. Mann shot it all in HD, and with a heavy use of handheld cameras. It actually almost feels like a documentary. That's how good it is. You are there with Dillinger in the 1930s, robbing the banks. You are there with Purvis, suiting up for a raid. Mann transports you into this time, and makes every scene authentic. The amount of realism in this movie is ridiculous, from the clothes, accents, and cars, to the surprisingly brutal violence and the incredibly loud gunshot noises. Let me tell you, the gunshots in this movie are LOUD! The action scenes are the best Mann has done since the spectacular street shootout in Heat. The massive fight between the F.B.I. and Dillinger's gang in Wisconsin is one for the record books. The documentary style deal is good. It shows Mann stepped back and let the actors do their thing, and more power to him for it. He has made one of the best, old fashioned,  gangster movies since Goodfellas. 
The movie has it's problems, sure. For one, there is one scene where Depp and Bale stare down each other through prison bars. The way this movie has been publicized, I went in thinking that that scene would be on par with the amazing diner chat between DeNiro and Pacino in Heat. Not so. That was the only disappointing scene in the movie. Also, the score kind of annoyed me. There was this one point at the very end of the movie, after a pretty emotional line was said, where the music blared up full blast. It turned a genuinely heartbreaking scene into an eye roller. 
Public Enemies is not Mann's best movie. This flick is no Heat. What it is, is one of the best movies of the year, and a return to form for director. Bolstered by the spectacular performance by Depp, Public Enemies rises above the drek to come out in recent weeks, and kicks off the Oscar race a little early this year. It's July 4th weekend. Don't go see Transformers again. See this. You'll be better off.  B+