December 31, 2009

Retrospective: The 2000s in Review

My, my, my. Is it 2010 already? Wow. I’m gonna be going to college in August (hopefully). Oh boy! Yes, ten years have passed since we ushered in the new millennium. Many things have transpired since then. We finally have a black president; we started (and have yet to finish) two wars, gas prices sky rocketed, and the country was hit with a recession on par of the Great Depression. Some bad things happened as well.
I kid! I kid! Regardless of all the political shit that went down since January 1, 2000, the entertainment industries that the general populace of this nation thrives on have flourished. This is nowhere more apparent then in the film industry. Some people will no doubt disagree with me, the but the 2000s was a great decade for movies. The decade saw many trends. The superhero film became officially legitimized as a quality medium for story telling. The ever evolving technology of special effects gave us images that wowed even the harshest critic. Directors gave us some of their best works, while some continued to disappoint. Awards were won, people were snubbed, and, we kept flooding the theaters. For a decade filled with dark knights, love struck vampires, wild things, orcs and elves, cops and criminals, serial killers, zombies, robots, gay cowboys, flying martial artists, spartans, webheads, distraught soldiers, super secret agents, super powered computer hackers, lucky slumdogs, sociopaths, psychopaths, horny teens, pregnant teens, sweet teens, boxers, gladiators, oil tycoons, hitmen, politicians, journalists, invaders, defenders, heroes, villains, musicians, frat boys, sorority girls, geniuses, idiots and Na’vi, I’d say the last ten years have, is some way or another, offered something for everyone. But, that’s not why you’re here, is it? No, you want me to thrown down the hammer and tell you what the absolute best movies of the last 3650 days were, and what the absolute worst were. Very well, you’re wish is my command!

The Decade in Review: Top 20 Best

20. United 93 (Paul Greengrass) Some people cried foul when it was announced that a film was in the works which documenting the heroic deeds of the passengers on flight United 93 on September 11, 2001. I was among them. It seemed like Hollywood would trivialize the heroism and bravery of those men and women in their attempts to get cash from our pockets. Then I found out they would get Paul Greengrass to direct, hire a cast of unknowns, and even employ actual FAA workers and military personnel to add a greater level of authenticity to the picture. They succeeded admirably. By the end, I was moved, shaken, and filled with respect, and you will be too. Hats off to everyone involved!
19. 28 Days Later... (Danny Boyle) Before 28 Days Later... zombie movies were fast becoming dumb, boring, gore filled, snooze fests that we only went to to laugh at the idiocy of the still living people on screen. 28 Days Later... gave the genre the massive jolt of adrenaline that it needed. This terrifying, unsettling, completely plausible piece of horror still sticks with me today whenever I watch it, despite the fact that it came out over six years ago. From the haunting images of a deserted London, to the bloodcurdling shriek of the infected, this is a movie that will haunt your nightmares. Also, the zombies run. They don’t shuffle any more; they run! So scary!
18. Collateral (Michael Mann) A simple premise, an assassin holds a cabbie hostage and uses him as transport to his next targets, handled with deft hands and bolstered by terrific performances. Collateral kicked off Jamie Foxx’s breakout year, and showed a side of Tom Cruise that we had never seen. It remains as Michael Mann’s best work since Heat.
17. Minority Report (Steven Speilberg) Tom Cruise doesn’t make very many good films. In fact most of them tend to suck. But, when they are good, they are really good! Minority Report is Cruise’s best film since Born of the Fourth of July, and Steven Speilberg’s best of the decade. From the haunting and subtle visuals, to the mind fuck of a plot, this is one piece of plausible sci-fi you don’t want to miss.
16. Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino) A film by Quentin Tarantino in which Brad Pitt and a group of American soldiers go around France killing Nazis? Hell yeah! I was on board with Basterds before it even came out, and when it did, I was amazed at how good it actually was. Fine performances from Pitt, Eli Roth, Diane Kruger, and Melanie Laurent hold down the foundation, but it’s Christoph Waltz’s superb turn as the eccentric, villainous, milk swigging Col. Hans Landa that steals the movie. Funny, quotable, bloody, and exciting, it’s Tarantino’s finest since Pulp Fiction.
15. In Bruges (Martin McDonaugh) This is the movie that all those Tarantino clones were trying to be. Forget Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels! Fuck Smokin’ Aces! In Bruges is where it’s at. This wonderful little film pretty much came and went, and got little recognition, which is a crime. It is, at one moment, hilarious, and then, at the next, dark as hell. Colin Farrell, Brenden Gleeson, and Ralph Finnes all perform at the top of their game. I can’t wait to see what McDonaugh has in store for us next.
14. Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro)This movie is not a movie. Of any film on this list, it comes the closest to being defined as art! Guillermo Del Toro delves deep into his screwy mind to deliver a fantasy world, filled with danger and mysticism. But, we expect that from him. What makes Pan's Labyrinth so good is how Del Toro handles the other, real world half of the story. The portions dealing with the Spanish Civil War, the resistance, and the crazy evil Colonel, are all given just as much care as the fantasy sequences. Moving, beautiful, and haunting, Pan's Labyrinth sticks with you unlike any other film.
13. The Lookout (Scott Frank) This movie sort of came and went. Have you even heard of it? Didn't think so. Well, now that you know of its existence, go out to the store, or log onto you Netflix, and watch this brilliant nuanced crime thriller right now! Jospeh Gordon-Levitt only reaffirms my love for him; Matthew Goode is charming, slimy, and superbly twisted as the crook, and Isla Fisher shows us that she's more then a pretty face. First time director Scott Frank, known for writing such screenplays as The Interpreter, and number 17 on this list, is a genius with his camera, lighting, and sound, highlighting the depression that Chris Pratt is going through. This movie is hard to approach, but, believe me, you will not be disappointed.
12. Zodiac (David Fincher) In 1995, David Fincher gave us Se7en, a terrifying story about the hunt for a serial killer. In 2007, he gave us Zodiac, a terrifying story about the hunt for a serial killer that, this time, delved deep into the paranoia and obsession of the journalists and cops hunting the killer down. Jake Gyllenhaal is remarkable as journalist who sees his life fall apart due to his obsession with the case. Robert Downey Jr. returns to the screen, letting the world know that he is a serious actor once again, and Mark Ruffalo does a fine job as the detective assigned to find the killer. After a blood drenched first 30-40 minutes Zodiac really starts to mess with you, but in a good way, as the characters on screen get more and more fucked up! David Fincher delivers a nuanced and subtle piece of work that turns out to be more terrifying then all the blood filled slasher movies of the decade. Not bad coming from the guy who gave us Fight Club!
11. WALL-E (Andrew Stanton) The best animated film of the decade, indeed, ever! WALL-E is completely unlike any other animated film, from Pixar or otherwise. It sneaks up on you in the beginning, with its foreboding visuals and complete lack of organic life. Let it take hold of you, and you will be whisked away on a beautiful and majestic journey, with one of the quirkiest and most eccentric lead in recent memory. Sure, it's geared for kids, but, it's probably the most mature kids movie ever made. Adults will have no trouble falling as hard for it as I did.
10. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan) The best super hero movie ever made, and my favorite film from last year, deserves a spot on this list somewhere. To call The Dark Knight a comic book film is to do it a disservice. It is a crime thriller, taking place in a city where there happens to be a man who dresses like a bat an fights crime. Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Aaron Eckhart, Gary Oldman, and Maggie Gyllenhaal all play their roles to perfection, but it's Heath Ledger's mad crazy brilliant turn as the Joker that will stick with you for days on end. The superhero genre is officially legitimate! Thanks Batman!
9. District 9 (Neill Blomkamp) These days, it takes a whole ton to get noticed as a truly original sci-fi movie. What with so many films like Transformers, Star Trek, and Terminator clogging the theaters these days, the truly original stuff rarely comes along. District 9 is an original sci-fi film, and a damn good one at that. District 9 takes the alien invasion sub genre and promptly turns it on its head, doing away with all the cliches that plagued us for so long. In their place, director/producer team Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson have given us a completely believable and engrossing vision of a world where aliens are an everyday part of life. Throw in bloody disgusting action, political satire, and a genuine sense of heart, and you've got the sleeper hit of the decade. No one went in expecting greatness, but that's what they got!
8. Once (John Carney) Easily the smallest film on this list Once is a great little musical that sweeps you off your the second you hear Glen Hansard's guitar. Made for less then 20,000 dollars and shot in only 11 days, Once just goes to show how good art can be for next to nothing. Falling Slowly is a song for the ages. Ignore that R rating on the back of the box. A few uses of the f-bomb aren't going to hurt the youth of America. This movie is harmless. It's sweet, uplifting, and altogether fantastic!
7. Where the Wild Things Are (Spike Jonze) There are a bunch of movies on this list that are on the list because they nailed certain aspects of everyday life. Some nailed love and romance, other's nailed depression and sadness, others nailed fear and paranoia. Of all of them, the one I connected with the most was Where the Wild Things Are, which nailed what it was like to be a kid, angry, imaginative and rebellious. Director Spike Jonze has given us a beautiful, touching, moving, and absolutely wonderful fantasy story. Max Records as Max is sublime! The voice actors of the wild things are fantastic. The mix of CGI and puppets to create them is great! Like those memories of when you were a kid, playing in your yard or with your toys, Where the Wild Things Are brings up that blissful nostalgia of your childhood like nothing else can.
6. High Fidelity (Stephen Frears) With the exception of the best movie of the decade, High Fidelity is the only movie that I can think of that accurately captures the craziness and insanity that is love. It is, at times, painful to watch, but, that's a good thing. The movie is so honest, so sincere, about relationships and love that anyone who sees can't help to feel some sort of clenching feeling in their stomach. Don't worry. There are plenty of laughs to quell the pain. John Cusack gives his best performance, and has yet to live up to it as of today. And hey, this is the movie that introduced Jack Black to the masses. I think we can all appreciate it for that, at least.
5. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson) Oh, come off it! Of course this would be on the list somewhere. Sure, individually, each film has its problems. Fellowship of the Ring is often hard to follow as characters are introduced willy nilly; Two Towers deviates from the book a little too much; Return of the King can’t decide where to end and shoves five chapters worth of content into twenty-five minutes. But, as a whole, The Lord of the Rings is virtually untouchable! The sheer amount of work that Peter Jackson and Co. Put into this epic trilogy is mind boggling! It is even more so when you see the finished product and how good it is! The best special effects in any movie, ever (save one), tons of satisfying action, coupled with real characters, strong dialogue, and a wonderful sense of heart make this the pre-eminent fantasy epic of our generation!
4. The Departed (Martin Scorcese) This mind bender of a cops and crooks thriller, adapted from the Hong Kong thriller Infernal Affairs is a sight to behold. Martin Scorcese worked his ass on this film and earned that overdue Oscar. Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon turn in career best performance, Vera Farmiga stepped into the spotlight and declared herself a major talent, Alec Baldwin and Mark Wahlberg are righteous hoots as foul mouthed cops, and Jack Nicholson played the villain again, and had oh-so-much-fun doing it! Haters can shut it! This film earned every spec of praise it received!
3. Avatar (James Cameron) Remember how I said that The Lord of the Rings had the best special effects ever, save for one movie? That movie is Avatar, James Cameron’s magnum opus, twelve years in the making. It may seem rash, putting a film that only came out a few weeks ago so high on the “Best of the Decade” list, but, you know what? I don’t care! Avatar is simply gob smacking! No other film transported an audience to a new world this decade like Avatar did. No other film boasted special effects up to the level of Avatar. No other film was subject to this much hype, both good and bad, only to turn out better then everyone thought it would be! What can I say? It’s the Star Wars of this generation!
2. The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum (Paul Greengrass) This is what James Bond always should have been. Indeed, the new, Daniel Craig version of the British super spy owes a whole ton of credit to Jason Bourne. Sharply directed by Paul Greengrass and spearheaded by sublime performances by Matt Damon, the last two entries into the Bourne trilogy are the perfect example of an action movie. Smart, exhilarating, witty, and never boring, The Bourne Supremacy/Ultimatum make all other blockbusters of the decade look mighty sluggish by comparison.
1. (500) Days of Summer (Marc Webb) You didn’t see that coming, did ya? Out of all the art house pictures, Oscar winners, summer blockbusters, and sweeping epics, a small little romantic comedy wins out. Sometimes, love is all you need! I saw it before school started, and I still can’t get (500) Days of Summer out of my head. I can’t forget how sweet it is, how funny it is, and, above all, how true it is. Even more so then High Fidelity, (500) Days of Summer absolutely nails how love can hurt, heal, uplift, and bring down. Pitch perfect performances from Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel are only icing on the delicious chocolate cake that is (500) Days of Summer! In the same way Tom falls for Summer, I am absolutely in love with this movie!

Honorable Mentions: The films that didn’t quite make the cut, guilty pleasures, and the best in cheap entertainment. Even though none of these are on the Top 20, you won’t hear anything but good things about them from me, and you should see them all, if you have time.

28 Weeks Later..., 300, A History of Violence, About a Boy, The Aviator, Babel, Batman Begins, Blood Diamond, Brokeback Mountain, Casino Royale, Children of Men, The Constant Gardener, Crash, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Eastern Promises, Finding Nemo, Flags of our Fathers, Funny People, Gangs of New York, Gladiator, Good Night and Good Luck, The Hangover, Hero, Hot Fuzz, Hotel Rwanda, The Hurt Locker, The Incredibles, Iron Man, Jarhead, Juno, Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2, Knocked Up, Little Children, Little Miss Sunshine, Letters From Iwo Jima, Love Actually, Milk, Million Dollar Baby, Munich, My Summer of Love, The New World, No Country For Old Men, The Ocean’s Trilogy, The Prestige, The Queen, Serenity, Shaun of the Dead, Sin City, Slumdog Millionaire, Snatch, Spider Man 2, Star Trek, Superbad, Sunshine, Thank You For Smoking, There Will Be Blood, Tropic Thunder, Up, Up in the Air, Volver, Watchmen, Y Tu Mama Tambien

The Decade in Review: Bottom 10 Worst

10. Pearl Harbor (Michael Bay) It's not the worst Michael Bay movie to come out this decade. It's getting recognized on this list because it is the most disappointing. Pearl Harbor had potential, and it was all squandered. Bay, at one point, tries to show how he is maturing as a film maker by keeping the first hour and half of this three hour movie restrained and laid back as he deals with a love triangle of sorts, but he is hamstrung by his usual problems when it comes to actual human actors. He can't direct humans for shit! He seems to realize this at the half way point, resorts to his old tricks, and starts to blow everything up. These scenes are sort of cool, but you realize that all accuracy and respect for facts has been thrown out the window in favor of bigger explosions. The rest of the movie is just dead on the water! Bay tried so hard to make a serious film. I would say, "Good effort," had he not failed so epically!
9. GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra (Steven Sommers) It pains me to put anything that Joseph Gordon-Levitt was involved in on this dreaded list, but, even his talent couldn't save this sinking ship! I said that GI Joe was a fun guilty pleasure when I first reviewed it, but, upon revisiting it, all the fun had evaporated and I saw the film for what it really was. A cheap, poorly made, badly acted, terribly directed shoot em' up that was only released to ride the Transformers, toy-into-movie craze! Gordon-Levitt is the one good thing about this movie, but he's barely in it until the end, so, he's not even worth mentioning. Dumb, loud, boring action, the worst special effects of any blockbuster this decade, and some really bad acting easily slot GI Joe in at number 9. I'm rooting for Cobra!
8. Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (Jonathon Mostow) This one also falls into the "Not exactly terrible, but so friggin' disappointing that it must be recognized," category. Terminator 3 offers the odd thrill now and then, and Arnold is a badass as ever, but, this was the follow up to Terminator 2, arguably the best science fiction film since 2001. While T2 took time to explore the characters and make us care for them, T3 opts to just blow everything to hell. Where T2 was (semi) subtle and restrained, T3 is just bombastic and in your face. I mean, the first shot we see is a massive nuclear explosion, and the bad terminator is a skin-tight leather wearing sexbomb! T3 took a series that had previously been revered as the preeminent, adult, sci-fi franchise, and brought it crashing down to the level of Transformers and the Star Wars prequels! Boo!
7. The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Rob Cohen) Eh, I don't know what else I can say about this. All the TOTDE is, is a rehash of the last two mummy movies, only this time we don't have Rachel Weisz. No, instead we have to contend Maria Bello, as she gives one of the worst British accents ever, and successfully kills all good will I ever felt towards her. This is just an unfunny, unexciting, poorly made fantasy romp that you forget about the second the credits start to roll.
6. Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Dave Filoni) It's an animated Star Wars movie. Think Phantom Menace, only exponentially worse and you'll get a sense of what it was like to sit though this pile of garbage!
5. The Twilight Saga: New Moon (Chris Weitz) What can I say about this movie that I haven't already said. It's just terrible! Even though it is an improvement over its predecessor in many fields, said improvements are so underutilized and poorly handled that they aren't even worth mentioning. I'll reiterate. The movie that the characters go to see, Face Punch, sounds like real stinker. But, you know what, I would rather watch that, then New Moon!
4. Max Payne (John Moore) I didn't pay to see this movie (saw it online), and I still felt ripped off! Based on a really excellent video game, Max Payne could have been good, if they had stayed true to the game. It didn't, and what we got was a boring, by the numbers, cop thriller with barely any exciting action and putrid performances; Mark Wahlberg has never been worse! Throw in a plot that makes no sense, an overbearing sense of style and direction, and you have yourself one hellish creation. Sure, it's the best video game adaptation ever made. The again, that's like saying ebola is a more appealing option then smallpox!
3. Battlefield Earth (Roger Christian) Oh my God! I came this close to not including Battlefield Earth on this list. It is so, horrendously bad, that its actually kinda funny to watch! Just watch the video posted below. You'll see what I mean. But, even though it's hysterically awful, it's still awful. You can cover shit with glitter, but it'll still smell bad. Really bad CGI, the ugliest, stupidest aliens ever, a complete lack of color, and the worst script ever! L. Ron Hubbard wept!
2. Doom (Andrzej Bartkowiak) Here is a movie that deviates so far from the source material that it's not fair to say that it is based on it at all. Another video game adaptation, Doom is about some marines who go to Mars and fight zombies. In the game, they were fighting demons from Hell, but I guess the film makers thought that wouldn't be realistic enough. Bad performances from good actors Dwayne Johnson and Karl Urban, a complete lack of suspense or scares, and that nauseating, horrendous first person sequence all add up to the second worst movie of the decade!
1. Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke) I know I put Max Payne ahead of Twilight in my Worst of 2008 post, but the recent release of New Moon has given me an opportunity to reflect and determine that Twilight was, far and away, the worst movie of the decade! Stiff direction, laced with no style to speak of, coupled with terrible performances by everyone involved, make this the most painful and grating of films. The careers of Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner may flourish in the future, but they will always bear the hideous mark that this movie put on them.

Dishonorable Mentions: The pieces of crap that aren’t quite bad enough to warrant mention in the “Worst of...” list, but still putrid enough that you should sat far away!

10,000 BC, Alone in the Dark, Babylon A.D., Bad Boys II, Fantastic Four, Jennifer’s Body, The Matrix Reloaded/Revolutions, Saw I-VI, Smokin’ Aces, Spider Man 3, Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, Stealth, Transformers 2, Wild Hogs, X-Men Origins: Wolverine

There you go! Happy? I hope so! Excited for the next ten years? I sure am! It'll be interesting to see what gets served to us. Will James Cameron wait another eon before making
Avatar 2? Will The Twilight Saga get good? Will the superhero genre maintain its supremacy? Well, we'll find out won't we? See you next time! Happy New Year!

December 28, 2009

Only Mildly Elementary...

I'm gonna keep this short. I have some college apps to finish...

So, Sherlock Holmes is a reimagining, of sorts, where the super sleuth looses the deer stalker cap and magnifying glass, and is instead a tough-as-nails, hard drinking, badass with an attitude. His partner, Dr. Watson is about to move out of their flat on 221 B Baker Street with his fiance, which is leaving the good detective in a funk. Nothing like a case involving an evil lord returned from the dead, the occult, and a plan to overthrow the entire British government to liven up one's day. It's an interesting plot, but it ends on a pretty anti-climatic note. It's enough to keep you interested in between brawls.
Robert Downey Jr. plays Holmes. He's a pleasure to watch, very funny and tough. Jude Law is Watson, who is also good. His verbal sparring with Downey Jr. is some of the best this year. It's an interesting interpretation of the first bromance in history. Rachel McAdams is Irene Adler, the love interest for Holmes. She's fine, I guess, but she is just overpowered in every scene by Downey and Law. Mark Strong is the villain, Lord Blackwood. He's very good up until the end. At first he's quiet, subdued, and oh so scary. Then he drops all that in favor of a bombastic and loud revelation to the masses. Performances are alright, with Downey clearly the best.
Guy Ritchie, who, as you know, is responsible for films like Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels, Snatch and Rock n Rolla, directs, with his usual frenetic style. There are some undeniably cool scenes, but it gets boring after a short while, so that the final confrontation of top of Tower Bridge just feel halfhearted. There are some funny moments, especially when Holmes and Watson are bickering, but the rest of the plot makes very little sense, and just seems like filler so that we can get to the big twist in the very end that sets up inevitable sequels. I hate it when people do that.
Sherlock Holmes is alright if you are just looking for some cheap movie going fare for the rest of your holidays. But, at 128 minutes, it's almost as long as Avatar, which is much better use of your money. There's some hope for the franchise, if this is the direction that the character is going, but, as it stands, Sherlock Holmes is fun, but completely unnecessary. B-

December 18, 2009

Tangled Up In Blue


Holy shit! That was awesome! That's right, AWESOME! So, all you skeptics out there? SHUT UP!! You have no idea what you are talking about. After 12 years away from feature filmmaking, the master of science fiction, James Cameron, has returned to the big screen with Avatar. Let's get this out of the way first thing, because everyone is going to ask this question. Is Avatar better then Cameron's last film, Titanic? Answer: Damn right it is! Mr. Cameron has, with the help of the most convincing digital effects ever utilized on screen, successfully created a world, so immersive and believable, that you forget you are watching a movie. It doesn't hurt that he gives us a good story as well.
It's the year 2154, and the Earth, go figure, has run out of resources. Fortunately enough, all the resources needed to cultivate humanity can be found on Pandora, an Earth sized moon orbiting a gas giant billions of miles away from our planet. No problem. Just send some miners over there and tear the place up, right? No. As it turns out, Pandora is an incredibly hostile environment, with a toxic atmosphere, wildlife with a taste for human flesh, and an indigenous population of humanoids, the Na'vi. So, what's a money grubbing corporation to do? They start the Avatar program, which allows a human to link his conscience into the body of of a human/Na'vi hybrid, which lets him explore the planet and interact with natives. Enter Jake Sully, a paralyzed marine who is given the chance to pilot an avatar when his brother dies. Initially, he is only interested in furthering the humans plans, with the promise that, if he succeeds in convincing the Na'vi to relocate their home, the military will pay for an expensive operation that will give him the use of his legs back. But, not surprisingly, he gradually begins to shift sides, as he learns the ways of the Na'vi becomes intoxicated with Pandora and the Na'vi's otherworldly connection to it. Oh, also, he falls in love with his Na'vi guide, Neytiri. Eventually, the military rolls out to oust the Na'vi from their home, and an epic battle ensues, one that will decide the fate of both civilizations. In terms of originality, Avatar isn't there. We've seen this type of story a thousand times in films, i.e. Dances With Wolves. But, in terms of quality of the storytelling, Avatar has it in spades. You completely buy Jake's transformation as he switches values from that of a human to that of a Na'vi. Mr. Cameron has had this script cooking in his head since he first started making movies. All the time paid off.
Sam Worthington, hot off Terminator: Salvation firmly cements his place as an A-list star with Avatar. As Jake, he conveys all the pain that comes with being a paraplegic, all the confusion felt by someone in a new world, and all the fury and passion that someone feels when everything they have come to love is on the brink of destruction. He is superb. Other human performances include a seriously evil Stephen Lang as the cruel and brutal Colonel Miles Quartich, Giovanni Ribisi, oozing slime as the corporate douchebag, Michelle Rodriguez as a military pilot who sides with Jake, and Joel David Moore as fellow avatar driver, Norm Spellman. Sirgourney Weaver, Cameron's go to girl, is here, playing the head of the avatar program, Grace Augustine. Weaver does a fine job, working with the man who made her a star. The performances by humans are all great, but that's only half of the cast. The rest are entirely CGI created Na'vi, played by actors, and digitized with motion capture. Zoe Saldana (Uhura from Star Trek) is Neytiri, and she is amazing. Maybe it's all in the ridiculously good CG, but Saldana imbibes Neytiri with a tenderness and fierceness most actors these days can only dream of bringing to their characters. I know it won't happen, but I'd totally be for her getting an Oscar nomination. Other Na'vi CGI creations include Laz Alonzo as the perpetually angry Tsu'Tey, and C. C. H. Pounder as the Na'vi queen, Mo'at. Performances across the board are impeccable, with Worthington and Saldana leading the way, completely dashing away the doubts that they aren't cut out for this business.
So, let's move on to the main topic of interest with Avatar, that being the special effects. James Cameron himself made the brash statement that Avatar will revolutionize and pioneer a new, improved style of special effects, and that it will change the way we see movies. Verdict: Done and done! Is it a stretch to say that Avatar is the most visually impressive movie ever conceived? It'd be a stretch to say that it isn't. What Cameron and his effects team have done is nothing short of genius. First off, the Na'vi and avatars are all CGI, created with mo-capped actors, but you wouldn't know that watching them. They all look completely real; their skin and flesh behaves like you would expect, their faces are incredibly expressive, and the uncanny valley that is usually seen around the eyes when motion capture is employed (i.e. A Christmas Carol) is completely done away with. And it doesn't stop with the actors. The wildlife of Pandora, the fauna, the fucking floating mountains, the human war machines. Everything looks so realistic that you can't tell it's all CG. Now, all of this would count for nothing if there wasn't some originality brought to the visuals, and, thankfully, Cameron has brought tons. The world of Pandora has been crafted down to the minutest detail. You haven't seen anything like this before. Everything is handled with such care and love for the world Cameron is envisioning. It's the best example of this type of art since Lord of the Rings. Hell, it's even better then Lord of the Rings! And what special effects extravaganza would be complete without an epic battle? Boy, does Cameron deliver on that. The last twenty or so minutes is taken up by a massive confrontation between the entire military force and thousands of Na'vi. Thousands of gunships engage thousands of dragon riding Na'vi in the air, while thousands of troops with guns and mech suits engage thousands of Na'vi on horses on the ground. It's exciting and intense and full of cheer worthy moments!
James Cameron is a smart man! Sure, he's been selling the fact that the CGI is revolutionary, and all that, which it is. Here's the thing though. He forgot to mention that there's an actual story here, with, you know, substance. It's the most cliched plot in the book, but Cameron handles it and his actors with the mark of a true master. He takes the time to help you get to know the characters, make you connect and feel for them, before he sets off the fireworks. It worked in Titanic, and it works here to an even greater extent. Cameron does resort to the classic third act formula by giving us the massive, final battle, but, it's not just out of the blue, like in some other movies; there is an actual reason for the characters to be engaging in combat. The final battle seems like the natural conclusion to the story that Cameron is telling, rather then an explosion orgy thrown in to appease the crowd. James Cameron hasn't made many films, but they have all been great. With Avatar, his record has gotten that much better.
I know it's a brash claim, but I'm gonna say it anyway. Avatar is the Star Wars of our generation. No movie in the last 30 years has successfully transported the audience to a new world the way Avatar does. From the phosphorescent beauty of the forest at night, to the way the Na'vi move and emote, to the thundering boom of the human's missiles, you are sucked into the world of Pandora. Everything is so believable, everything is handled with such deft hands, that you are left in a state of slack-jawed wonderment. James Cameron once proclaimed himself king of the world. Doesn't look like he's giving up his throne anytime soon! A

December 17, 2009


Gah! Sorry the video's cut off. I'm still working on how to fix this...

December 13, 2009

Been Awhile....

I know. I know. I've been ridiculously busy and stressed, what with school and the impending college acceptance letter coming in a few days, so, I haven't been able to get to the movies as much as I'd like. So, basically, I've missed out on my chances of seeing and reviewing The Road, Precious, A Serious Man, Fantastic Mr. Fox, or Brothers. I'll probably see them, and make mention of them in the year end retrospective if they warrant it. On a different note, I fully intend to see Invictus and The Princess and the Frog sometime soon, and post something about them. But, I have to see Avatar first. Sorry. I don't care if you think a movie about ten foot tall, blue aliens with tails squaring off with a contingent of marines isn't your thing. The early reviews of James Cameron's Titanic follow-up have been good at worst, and stellar at best. I fully intend to experience this thing in all it's glory. That means, IMAX, in 3-D. I don't care if the glasses make you look ridiculous. It will be awesome. Also to come (and I'm serious about this; I will see and review these movies) Nine, Sherlock Holmes, The Lovely Bones, Up In the Air, and, maybe It's Complicated and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus. We'll see. Until then...

November 19, 2009

In the Name of Journalistic Integrity!

DEAR GOD!!! How do the teenage girls sit through that shit? It's the Friday before Thanksgiving, which means one thing. The new installment of the mediocrity celebrating franchise Twilight, New Moon has descended upon us, ready to steal our hard earned dollars and time. How bad is this movie? Let me tell it like this. There's a segment where the characters go to the cinema to see a bad action movie. A really bad action movie, to be precise, called Face Punch. Face Punch is a better movie then New Moon.
So, the story picks up sometime after where the first left off. Bella Swan is happily enjoying her pale-as-chalk, vampire boyfriend, Edward Cullen; is fitting in nicely at school; and is getting closer to her hella buff, Indian American friend, Jacob Black, who is also a werewolf, but more on that later. Life is going swimmingly, until Bella treats Edward's family to the pleasure of her company, and accidently cuts herself, causing Edward's brother to go apeshit and try to kill her. A very distraught Edward quickly gets out of town, all in the name of protecting her, causing Bella to fall into a depression so deep it borders on gratuitous. Jacob steps in to fill the niche, some familiar bloodsuckers return to cause trouble, and it all ties up nicely in a quaint little Italian village. Now, I'm sure the book told a good story; one filled with great character development and moved at a nice pace. Or, at least it would, if it was written by anyone other then Stephanie Meyer. Anyway, the plot in this movie moves at such a sluggish pace and takes absolutely no time to explore the characters in any sort of believable way that you begin to wonder if a daytime soap was condensed into movie form. Not good, in any sense of the word.
Performances are the same here as they were in the first, meaning, New Moon boasts some truly terrible performances. Kristen Stewart gives wooden a whole new meaning as Bella. Now, don't get me wrong, Kristen Stewart can be good. As proof of this, her work in Adventureland was simply sublime. I even was a little warm to her performance in Twilight. For New Moon she has taken a step back. She is worse in this movie then she was in the first! What the fuck? Everything she does is layered with such overbearing angst that I wanted to reach into the screen and choke the life out of her. It's so unrealistic. Now, I'm not a teenage girl... I don't think, but I'm pretty sure that most teenage girls are more down to earth then Bella, even if their boyfriends happen to be demonic bloodsucking fiends. Expect to see her on my worst of 2009 list in December. Robert Pattinson is back as Edward. He's barely in the movie, which is good, because he's still just as lifeless. Taylor Lautner's role as Jacob has been expanded exponentially, which is not a good thing. Of the three major roles, his is probably the best performed, but it is still a stinker. I understand why he went through all the trouble to buff up for this movie. His most interesting moments are when he's shirtless. He conveys zero emotion when he should be conveying tons. On the brighter side of things, New Moon introduces a few characters who are actually well performed, but woefully underused. Michael Sheen is a delight as the maliciously evil and powerful vampire Aro, and Dakota Fanning shows a side we've never seen from her as the sadistic Jane. Both of these characters, and a few others, only appear in the last 20 minutes of the film, which is such a crime. I would have loved to see a whole movie of them instead of the shit we're stuck with.
Now, you may be thinking, "Oh, New Moon is so bad, but how does it compare to Twilight?" Let me tell you. New Moon is actually better then Twilight! I know! Ridiculous, right? It's a mark of how abysmal the first one is that this drek actually qualifies as better. But, well, it is. First off, director Chris Weitz knows how to film an action scene. The few action scenes that are present are actually a bit exciting and well shot. The CGI is vastly improved over the last film; the wolves especially look very lifelike and manage to convey more emotion then their human counterparts. When your human actors are getting beat by CG wolves, it's probably time to call it a day. The main improvements are actually quite impressive. First off, there's some real, you know, color here. Everything is not as aggressively gray and emo looking. There are some wonderful hues of brown, yellow, and red. And, finally, the big thing, is that the vampires are actually scary in this one. Well, not all of them, but the ones that need to be are. Edi Gathegi and Rachelle Lefevre return as Laurent and Victoria, respectively. The, collective, 20 minutes that they are in the film are the most intense in the whole thing. And, I'm sorry, but Michael Sheen was positively terrifying as Aro. There is a greater effort to make the vampires seem more dangerous this time, and it does not go unappreciated. There is a short segment in the very end, where a vampire leads an unknowing group of humans, children included, into a room where they are to become the soulless bastards' next meal. The scene ends with the human's screams as the vampires have their way with them. This scene is only 30 seconds long, but it was what I wanted from the whole movie! I wanted intensity; I wanted high stakes. I did not want Pattinson and Lautner to spend 2 fucking hours coming up with different ways to tell Stewart that they love her, but that's what I got! How anyone could fall in love with this girl is beyond me. She's a whiney, little bitch! So, yes, there are vast improvements, but, they are so underutilized and poorly handled that I don't even know why I'm writing about them.
As with Twilight, what I'm saying here is going to jack to change your mind on this franchise. The teenage girl fans will love it. Everyone else will hate it's guts. I'm not giving my final verdict on the franchise just yet. The next one, Eclipse is supposed to ramp the action way up, and is being directed by David Slade, who gave us the wonderfully violent, disgustingly gory, and criminally dismissed 30 Days of Night, which is a good vampire film, in case anyone cares to know. Here's to hoping that he will say "Fuck you, tweens!" and bring some actual grit to this franchise, but I won't count on it.
Uggg! My god damn journalistic integrity will the be the death of me! D-

November 14, 2009

It's the End!!

Honestly, I was not looking forward to this. These next few weeks are going to be particularly hellish in terms of the movies I have to see. Before I get to experience Avatar, I have to contend with a slew of stinkers, including New Moon, Old Dogs, and Armored. But, to start off, I saw movie that, while terrible, is so fun that anything less then a recommendation would be cruelty. 2012, the latest tryst by Roland Emmerich in his fetish for destroying the Earth, is loud, obnoxious, poorly written, badly acted, and certifiably nuts. But, I don't care! This movie is so ridiculous, so over the top, so bat-shit insane that it puts all other disaster movies, past, present, and future, to shame! Don't say I didn't warn you; you may never want to see another disaster movie again.
So, it's the year 2012, and this movie is going under the assumption that the Mayans were correct in their prediction of the end of days instead of the bumbling idiots that they really were. The sun, and bear with me here; this is a little ridiculous, is emitting an exorbitant of neutrinos, which are, in turn, rapidly melting the core of the earth. This causes the plates to start to violently shift, causing all kinds of fun devastation and death! Los Angeles sinks into the Pacific Ocean, a tidal wave utilizes the John F. Kennedy aircraft carrier to bitch slap the White House, and Yellowstone National Park explodes! Contending with all this chaos is Jackson Curtis, a failed writer turned limo driver, who reads the signs, rents a plane, and attempts to get his estranged family to China, where the world's governments are secretly building massive ships to preserve civilization. Very Noah's Ark. The story, penned by director Roland Emmerich, is the exact same thing we've come to expect from him. Ruined relationships are healed amid the end of the world. We saw an ex husband and wife reconcile amid an alien invasion in Independence Day, old flames reconnect whilst a giant lizard rampages around New York in Godzilla, and a father and son forge a greater relationship during the onset of a new ice age in The Day After Tomorrow. Mr. Emmerich is a one trick pony in every sense of the term, but, his movies make tons of money. Go with what works, I guess.
It always boggles my mind, but how does Emmerich always get such talented actors in his movies. Everyone knows what a schlock meister he is, so why do big name stars always work with him. Here, we get John Cusack, doing a fairly decent job as the horribly unlucky and unrealistically brave Jackson, Amanda Peet, looking unhealthily thin as his estranged wife, Chiwetel Ejiofor as the President's chief science officer who discovers the whole mess, Oliver Platt as a world class douchebag of a Chief of Staff, Danny Glover as the President who gets crushed by an aircraft carrier (sorry to give that away), and an under utilized Thandie Newton as his daughter. Emmerich usually gets marginally good performances out of his actors, and 2012 is no exception. They pale in comparison to other performances by more gifted artists, but, for the quality of the material they have to work with, it's not terrible. Cusack especially stands out as a shining spot. His comic time, and chemistry with the actors playing his children is great, and put to great use amid all this mayhem. It is a little ridiculous how he turns into Jason Bourne in a tux throughout most of this film, but he keeps a straight face, and manages to keep us interested.
So, let's move on to the real player here, Mr. Emmerich. I'll be honest. I've been a bit unfair to him over the years. Sure his movies suffer from underdeveloped characters, dumb plots, and present science as iffy as four month old orange juice. But, they are fun! Really fun! Come on! You can't tell me you didn't crack at least one smile when Will Smith owned an entire alien civilization. That was friggin' awesome! 2012 is in the same category as his other movies. It's a fucking great ride! Emmerich even changes things up a little bit, and doesn't destroy New York. Well, he does, but we don't see it. He instead acts a bit more tasteful with his destruction, as when we see Hawaii melt thanks to a massive eruption of all the volcanoes in the area. We only a see airborne shot. He doesn't get close, leaving us to imagine what's happening, which makes it a lot more foreboding. Indeed, many parts of this movie are much darker then what we've come to expect from him, as when a man talks to his granddaughter on the phone and is an audible witness to her demise. It's those little things that hint at a maturation of the director, though that isn't likely. Also, the special effects are spectacular.
There are a slew problems, however. There always are. First off, the pacing. It takes a good 45 minutes to get to the disaster porn, and then it's a non stop roller coaster of destruction and death for a good hour and ten. Then, the movie just falls flat, opting for a Poseidon Adventure retread for a finale. The ending is so anticlimatic, I wanted to scream! Also, Emmerich's love of destroying monuments hamstrings him a little. There's a scene at the Vatican, where thousands of people are praying. Emmerich could have just shown this scene, and then moved on to the rest of the story, but oh no, he has to bring all of St. Peter's Basilica down on the worshippers. It's completely unnecessary and projects an unwelcome grim feeling on the audience. And, finally, the biggest problem with this movie is the tone. There are countless scenes where we are witness to terrible things happening. I think this the first Roland Emmerich film that is ok with showing the deaths of children. We see many little kids get crushed by falling debris, fall into bottomless pits, or get engulfed by massive tsunami's. Throughout most of the movie, the tone is pretty grim. And then there's the ending, which is all happy and shit. The ending sees the main characters looking out onto the new world, bathed in sunlight and happy. They just completely forget about the 5.9 billion other people that just died! Emmerich's other movies have suffered from this same problem. The man just doesn't learn!
But, when it comes down to it, 2012 is not trying to send a message or anything like that. It's just a popcorn movie, and a good one at that. It is the mother of all disaster films. It's pretty terrible on a subjective level, but, God Damn, is it fun! B

October 29, 2009

Blue Giants!!!

The new Avatar trailer can be summed up in two words: pure awesome! All you naysayers who said that the first one was underwhelming and didn't show off the genius special effects utilized by Jim Cameron and crew are now speechless!

October 24, 2009

A Post About Theatre? What?

So, last night I treated a few friends to American Idiot at Berkley Repatory Theatre, meaning, I paid for half their tickets. I'm not exactly rolling in Benjamin's here. $85 tickets is a little expensive for anyone! Anyway, back to the point, American Idiot. Unless you've lived under a rock for the last 10 years, you're probably aware of a little band called Green Day. Now, I personally like these guys. Their simple, yet powerful sound is quite appealing to me when I just want to relax and not marvel at the complexities of the artist I'm listening to. That being said, I think Billie Joe Armstrong's voice is really annoying. A lot of people hate them however, i.e. most of the followers of this blog, which may make you wonder why I'm even posting this. Well, I'll tell you. Because, regardless of what you think of the band, you will find something to like in American Idiot, the musical. The songs that the band and Michael Mayer, who directed, chose to include lend themselves well to the show, since they already have an underlying narrative to them as is. The music is just as powerful and loud as you know it, which is just fine. It's been awhile since we've had a true rock opera, and before you give me crap about that last statement, let me finish. Rent and Spring Awakening do not count as rock opera, due to the music in those shows being more rooted in pop and traditional Broadway ballads. American Idiot is a full on rock opera! The songs do a good job of driving the almost non-existent plot forward, which is good, since there is almost no dialogue, with the exception of headliner John Gallagher, Jr. monologuing to the audience. Speaking of him, he does a great job, as does the rest of the cast. The plot focuses on three guys from the ass end of society, two of which move to the city while the other one stays behind to be with his knocked up girlfriend. One of them goes off to war, while the other one self-destructs thanks to drugs, drink, and the punk scene. The songs are the only things moving this bare bones plot forward, but, it's not that big of deal. Like I said, the album itself tells more or less the same story on its own. The cast does a great job injecting energy and fury into the play, thanks in part to some really cool choreography by Steven Hogget. The stands out, in my mind, are Gallagher, Jr., who does a great job leading this pack of lowlife rejects, Matt Caplan, who boasts the best voice in the entire cast, Theo Stockman, who was just recently on Broadway in Hair, and who is always a pleasure to watch, and Tony Vincent, who, even though he looks like Marilyn Manson, does a great job as the quasi-antagonist St. Jimmy. That, and his voice can go to Adam Lambert levels of high! I hope that most of this cast stays with it when it moves to Broadway.
That being said, this play needs a lot of work if it wants to have any chance of surviving on that coveted strip of asphalt in Times Square. For starters, the plot is terrible. There is no real sort of character development, and a lot of the songs feel a little out of place with what the characters are going through. The story and book are the main problems, but there are some other ones. Some songs feel unnecessary, like when St. Jimmy starts crooning "Know Your Enemy". My last gripe is with the finale. The second to last number ends on such a show stopping note, that I was ready to give my standing ovation. But, no! There's one more song, which is a bit of a let down as a finale. Albeit, it is loud, and the cast gets physical, but, it just didn't sit well with me. It's like "Song of Purple Summer". Good song. Terrible for a finale! But, all these gripes are for naught! I am positive that Armstrong and Mayer will rework the hell out of this show before it goes to Broadway. They have the body of a great musical already! Now they just need the heart! B-

October 16, 2009

Eat It Up!

Brace yourselves! I'm about to delve deep into myself in yet another one of my many attempts to show you that I have a soul! I know you don't want to believe it, but come on! Give credit where credit is due! I just got out of Where the Wild Things Are almost on the verge of tears. I didn't actually let a teardrop go, as I was with friends, and that would have looked weird. But, that still didn't stop me from feeling an overwhelming sense of wonder and emotion with Where the Wild Things Are. Indeed, this is easily one of the best movies of the year, and, as my friend so succinctly put it, the first book-to-movie adaptation that is actually better then the source material on which it is based!
If you have read Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are, then you already have a general idea of what this movie is about. If you haven't read it, then close out of this page, turn off your computer and do so. For those of you who don't read, it boils down like this. There's a kid named Max, who is going through that phase of childhood, where everything he does is misunderstood, where the smallest things can lead to huge confrontations, and where the imagination is an untamed and wild beast! One night, Max is sent to bed without dinner. Instead of following his mother's orders, he runs away to the ocean. There he finds a small boat, which takes him to a far off island. Upon landing on the island, Max discovers that it is inhabited by giant "wild things", who, upon close inspection, are not that different from himself. He makes his presence known and is soon crowned the king of the wild things. As he befriends and plays with the creatures, he let's his own fantasies play out like he never could back home! The book Where the Wild Things Are was only made up of ten sentences. Co-writer/director Spike Jonze was faced with the, almost, impossible challenge of adapting the book into a feature length movie. Boy, did he live up to the task! To say that Where the Wild Things Are stays true to the spirit of the book is a gross understatement. It is such a beautiful story that is so masterfully written... I can't think of anything to say that will do it justice!
Max Records plays Max (go figure). This performance will probably go down in the annals of exquisite performances by a child actor. Records so brilliantly captures the juvenile spirit that made Max such and interesting character in the book, and does a great job translating it to the screen. He is simply wonderful! The rest of the cast is made up of, primarily, voices from the likes of James Gandolfini as the main and most troubled wild thing, Carol, Lauren Ambrose as the carefree and kind KW, Forest Whitaker and Catherine O'Hara as lovebirds Ira and Judith, Paul Dano as the lonely, sad Alexander, Chris Cooper as the yes-man Douglas, and Michael Berry Jr. as the quiet and shutoff Bull. All the voice actors do a great job, with Gandolfini and Ambrose shining the brightest! The layers of emotion that the voice actors give to their characters is so unique these days, it makes wish more people would give a damn! Catherine Keener and Mark Ruffalo show up briefly as Max's mother and her boyfriend, respectively. This is one of the best acted movies of the year! No question about it!
Back to Spike Jonze. Here is a director who has consistently turned in wonderfully quirky, very heartfelt films, from Being John Malkovich to Adaptation. Where the Wild Things Are is a big change of pace for him, but he handles the project as if he had been making movies like this for decades. He stays so true to the message and ideas of the book, whilst expanding the plot so that it would be interesting on screen, it is mind boggling! He so masterfully captures what is like to be kid, and all the confusion, imagination, innocence, playfulness, and mystery that goes with it! Despite this movie being a "fantasy" tale, it is very realistic. I don't think anyone can walk out of this movie and say that they didn't relate to Max at least once throughout the entire screening. They would be lying! Everything that we see Max contend with on the island with the creatures is a reflection of what every kid goes through at some point in their lives. Good luck not feeling that hard to find swelling in your chest when the movie reaches its heartbreaking-uplifting-at-the-same-time ending!
Words cannot adequately express how good Where the Wild Things Are is. I could talk all day about how great the cinematography is, how the almost dialogue free opening scenes are sublime, or how the mix of costumes and CGI to create the wild things could not have been done better. But, then you'd still be reading this and not going to see Where the Wild Things Are. So, that's all I have to say! Close out of this page, turn off your computer, and go see Where the Wild Things Are! To quote KW, "I could eat [it] up, I love [it] so!" A

October 9, 2009

Moving Is Living!

Suffice to say, I'm excited as hell for Up In The Air to come out later this year. Not only does it star the likes of George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, JK Simmons, and Zach Galifianakis, but it also directed by Jason Reitman, who is, of course, responsible for the likes of Thank You for Smoking and Juno. The film received rave reviews from the lucky bastards that got to go to the Toronto Film Festival, and seems to be destined for Oscar glory. Keep your eyes open!

October 2, 2009

It's A Disaster!

"When they tell you not to panic, that's when you run!"

Now, is it just me, or does this look like a comedy?

September 26, 2009

Drip... Drip... Drip... Drip... RAWR!!



Sometimes, I just do not understand then human race. Take, for example, the current enigma running through my head. Why, in the future, are we so fascinated with building derelict space crafts? You know, massive ships with long, dark hallways, water dripping from the ceiling, and power that's as reliable a wind up clock? I mean, nothing good ever happens on these types ships, so why will we ever build them? Take Pandorum. If it's version of reality is anything to go on, then such a spacecraft will be the home to vicious, cannibalistic, mutants, paranoid and delusional humans, and lots and lots of death! Do we really want to become that society? I didn't think so!
Pandorum starts off on a very unsettling note. Two men wake up from cryo-sleep on a massive ship, with no recollection of their mission, and no idea why they woke up. One of them, Bower, ventures out of their secure room into the rest of the ship, while the other, Payton, stays behind to relay info from a computer console. It immediately becomes apparent that something went very wrong with the mission. For one, Bower is constantly stalked by dozens of crazed, homicidal, monsters, who may or may not be of human descent. He also runs into a group of people who have been awake for far longer then he has, and who have spent the time fighting off the mutants. But, as is explained in a very clever way, the biggest enemy to Bower and Payton may, in fact, be themselves, as they soon start to experience symptoms of a brain disorder called Pandorum, which leads the victim to become paranoid, start to hallucinate, and eventually become homicidal. All throughout the movie, you are constantly asking yourself, "Are the things that are attacking Bower real, or is he just slowly losing his sanity." Wait until a third character named Gallo shows up in the third act and the movie really starts to fuck with your head! In terms of storytelling, Pandorum has it in spades, especially when compared to other movies in this genre.
Ben Foster plays the confused and frightened Bower, and Dennis Quaid plays his guide, Payton. Both these guys do fine jobs. As an actor, Foster hasn't really found a, big, star making performance. He popped onto the scene with 2006's Alpha Dog, and started to really get noticed with his sociopathic and deranged gunslinger in 2007's 3:10 to Yuma. But, he still hasn't appeared in more mainstream stuff. Pandorum probably won't be the movie that starts getting him revered by the general public, but he still does an admirable job. The script he has to work with isn't the best, but he throws himself into it, and reveals a much deeper character then I think the writers had even thought possible. Quaid doesn't really have much to do, but the sequences of him coping with Cam Gigandet's Gallo are more intense and scary then any of the sequences with the mutants. Speaking of Gigandet, he is really good here. He's not in the movie for very long, but when he is, the screen crackles with a paranoid energy so fierce, you feel the skin on your back start to crawl. The last main performance falls to Antje Traue as a botanist turned warrior, who is easily the person most capable of handling the mutant problem. Performances here aren't great, but they are leagues better then others in the genre.
Director Christian Alvart must love movies like Alien, and Event Horizon. The infulences of these two is certainly prevalent in Pandorum. Though it may look like a standard horror movie, which the predictable scares and such, Pandorum is so much more. First off, the movie is legitimately scary. Not only are the standard, jump out of your seat, scares there and used to good effect, but the amount of psychological terror in this movie really starts to get to you. There's a twist, which I won't spoil, that, while a little easy to predict, is extremely unsettling and disturbing, and really ratchets up the horror for the rest of the movie. Pandorum is suspenseful, startling, and terrifying in ways that other horror movies these days can only hope to be.
There are a few problems. First off, there's the mutants. They look cool, can run up walls, and are great with a blade. But, when you mix in the expertly crafted psychological horror segments, the multiple chase and mutilation sequences seem a little out of place. Also, Pandorum is yet another movie to suffer from coked up camera men. During the action sequences, the camera jumps around so damn much, it's almost impossible to see anything. It's worse then Quantum of Solace, I shit you not! You actually never get to see a detailed image of the monsters until the end, because the damn camera is moving around so fast. But, it stays rock steady in the segments leading up to action, which, in accompaniment with an effective score, really ratchets up the suspense.
Pandorum is a pleasant surprise. Usually, movies of this sort are nothing more then B-movie, escapist, crap, but Pandorum is significantly better then these. Bolstered by strong performances, slick direction, and a real sense of terror, Pandorum is everything a horror fan wants. Be warned: I'm not kidding around here. This is probably the scariest movie I've seen in a good while. Be prepared to leave the theatre a little shaken. B

September 19, 2009

Putting the Suc Into Succubus!

I'm gonna spoil something for all you boys. No, Megan Fox does not get naked in Jennifer's Body! There! I said it! Now all you pre-pubescent, testosterone crazed, teens with holes in your pockets don't have to see it! While we're on the subject, none of you should, because even though it's written by a very gifted writer, and boasts big name, albeit questionable, talent, Jennifer's Body is one hellish experience to sit through!
So, there's Jennifer. She's hot, conceited, stupid, slutty, and other words that would describe a character played by Megan Fox! Then there's Needy. She's somewhat hot, smart, likable, funny, and other words that would describe a character played by Amanda Seyfried. They've somehow taken a hatchet to regular socially acceptable barriers and are best friends. One night, Jennifer drags Needy to see some arbitrary indie band at some arbitrary bar. The bar burns down due to... actually, that's not really explained, and Jennifer goes off with the band because... well in reality, that's not made explicitly clear either. Anyway, it turns out this band are worshippers of Satan, and try to sacrifice Jennifer to appease their demigod so that he may get their record sales up. Well, something goes wrong, and Jennifer survives, only now she's a psycho, man hungry, cannibal with a taste for any boy the movie deems important enough to capitalize on. I guess it's so we'll care. Anyway, she's starts gobbling up the sexually frustrated teens from her school, while Needy tries desperately to discover why her "friend" is behaving so friggin' weird. It's not the most original plot, but... no, actually, I can't really think of anything good to say for this one. Sorry.
Just by looking at the poster, you should immediately decide if you will see this movie or not. It displays the film's "star" Megan Fox, sitting seductively on a desk, all pimped out in short skirt and form fitting tank top. As Jennifer, Fox doesn't stray far from this image in terms of things we like about her. It is now an official decree! Megan Fox cannot act for shit! Sure, this is much more interesting role then whatever it was that was mistaken for a character in Transformers, but it's now abundantly clear to me. Whatever role is thrown at her, she will take it, and make it painful to watch. On a happier note, Amanda Seyfried is somewhat passable as Needy. Granted, she's kinda shoehorned into a stereotype dweeb role here. She wears glasses and has a ponytail. Warning lights flash! But, no, she's ok. On the man front, things are significantly brighter. Johnny Simmons turns in what I hope is career making performance as Needy's boyfriend, who meets a horribly unfair end! Adam Brody is quite funny as the maliciously evil leader of the band that is responsible for Jennifer's predicament, who meets a horribly awesome end! And JK Simmons is a righteous hoot as the kids dweebish, amputee, science teacher. At the risk of sounding sexist, the men in this movie do a much better job then the women. The sad thing is, if Megan Fox wasn't in this movie, it would actually a decently acted film. But, she is so terrible in it, that she brings everybody else down with her. What a bitch!
Jennifer's Body is written by Diablo Cody. Yes, that same Diablo Cody who just won an Oscar for the brilliant, Godsend of film that was Juno. This is how she follows that up? I know, stupid move. The self conscious, quirky, pop culture heavy, dialogue that she pioneered with Juno is still here, only now it seems, I don't know, different. You know how in the 90s after Pulp Fiction came out, and all those writers just started hopelessly trying to capitalize on the Tarantino style of writing. Remember how all of them missed that certain something that made Tarantino's dialogue so good? Well, it's more or less the same story here. Jennifer's Body feels like it was written by someone trying to emulate Diablo Cody, only Jennifer's Body was actually written by Diablo Cody, which is cause for concern. There are so many snarky remarks and pop culture references here that it just starts to get annoying. You know how in Juno, how all the teens seemed wise beyond their years with their witty syntax? You also remember how it seemed plausible, thanks to the movie having a certain air of, I guess, cheek? Not so with Body. You don't believe for a second that these kids would actually talk this. It's disappointing. And don't even get me started on the director. Karyn Kusama can make a good film; she showed us that much Girlfight back in 2000, but she followed that up with Aeon Flux, so maybe she isn't all that. Anyway, she is completely lost here with Body. She jumps around between tones so much it gives you whiplash, and completely fails with all of them. The scary and suspenseful sections are neither, the funny sections aren't funny enough, and the few sections that only exist to extenuate Megan Fox's curves are nowhere near hot enough to get anyone interested. Even the much hyped about girl-on-girl scene is a snooze. I don't really know why people make a big deal about a lesbian kiss on screen any more. That shit was old news five years ago! Now, don't get me wrong, the actors on display here are HOT! Megan Fox is HOT! Amanda Seyfried is HOT, despite what the movie wants you to think. And Adam Brody is HOT! That's right! I said that! But, the movie doesn't do enough to capitalize on this, which is surprising, given how much the marketing is capitalizing on it.
Jennifer's Body is one dismal movie! With a writer like Diablo Cody, you'd think the script would at least be good. But, even in that sense, you're left out in the cold. Body is poorly acted, badly directed, rarely funny, and not even remotely scary. Somebody will have to sell their soul to Satan to get the numbers up on this piece of shit! D