Sunday, January 31, 2010

Zoe Saldana

I know it's only been a week - and I should repeat posts - but right now I can't resist Miss Saldana...

Oh, Zoe...

*Le Sigh (again)*

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Deep Red [1975]

I woke up the other day and for some reason started looking at the filmography of Adrian Brody - who was to appear in the new Predator sequel... reboot... remake... um... movie - and thought what the hell is he up to that he's going to jump into this possible mess? And I noticed that he's going to appear in a new Dario Argento film - which made me stop wondering and think of Deep Red!

Friday, January 29, 2010

My favorite films of 2009

At long last - I know it's been a rough wait - but I've finally gotten around to making my best of 2009 list. I'm actually surprised that I came away liking several of these films - and though I'm hesitant to rate any film with solid marks until my second viewing - some of these films have only gotten one viewing. In spite of all that I'm pretty confident in my choices - and I'm sure in a year once all those nifty foreign films, films I just didn't get off my arse to go see in the theaters and under-the-radar films hit Netflix - it'll change - but I'll let this stand in the time capsule of my movie blog.

10. Adventureland [directed by Greg Mottola]

9. Fantastic Mr. Fox [directed by Wes Anderson]

8. The Hangover [directed by Todd Phillips]

7. Taken [directed by Pete Morel]

6. The Hurt Locker [directed by Kathryn Bigelow]

5. (500) Days of Summer [directed by Marc Webb]

4. Avatar [directed by James Cameron]

3. Away We Go [directed by Sam Mendes]

2. District 9 [directed by Neill Blomkamp]

1. Up In The Air [directed by Jason Reitman]

Thursday, January 28, 2010

No Country for Old Men [2007]

Plenty has been said about this film – so I’m not going to give you my traditional style of review – I’m just going to kind of explain my experience with the film – what I understand – what I don’t.

First time I saw this film – I walked out of the theater feeling embarrassed because I thought I fell asleep – and my friend was being kind and denied that I was asleep. Till just recently – I couldn’t understand what was so special about this film – and I still think the hype hurts this film more than it should – but after two subsequent viewings – I get it now.

I think.

Llewelyn stumbles upon the aftermath of a gunfight – where there are virtually no survivors – with the exception of one dying man begging for water. Knowing there must be something special around for all these people to be dead – he tries to determine where the last man standing is – and finds a case full of money. Later that night after he gets home - he realizes that if that dying man survives to tell someone that he was sniffing around – he’d be in real trouble.

He goes back to the scene – only to be discovered and chased by another group of men. Realizing he’s not going to be safe – he sends his wife away to be safe with her mother – and he goes on the run. How right he is – because an unreasonably violent man named Anton Chigurh is coming after him for the money.

I think what threw me so completely my first viewing – is that I was expecting an “ah-ha” moment to be verbalized by some character – and shared with the audience. The problem was all the “ah-ha” moments were internalized – the Cohen Brothers kind of expect you to be right there in the moment with the characters – and thinking along the same lines.

The other thing that threw me is the Chigurh character – he doesn’t really appear to have any driving motivation to him other than to get the money – even though he’s not running around saying “give me the money”. He’s really scary in that sense – he’s got no conscience – no sense to the viewer that he has a stopping point. He can’t be reasoned with or sent off course in any way. You get the sense that even if he gets the money the parties responsible for inconveniencing him in the process – will be killed. He’s crazy – but is too reasoned and calm to appear crazy – and that’s what’s scary.

As you can see I really haven’t mentioned the Sheriff character at all – and that’s because I’m not sure if I would call him the glue that makes the story come together – or if he’s the commentator that helps us justify the story. Some places I’ve read that he should be considered the “good guy” or the “main character” – which is interesting considering – his impact to the story is minimal. He’s certainly interesting as a character in the story – but maybe not as necessary to the conflict.

Then I start to think that the glue is the Llewelyn character – that holds the story of the “good guy” and the “bad guy” together – but it’s so difficult to put your finger on it since none of the characters ever share the screen.

I lean more towards the sheriff being the “glue” that holds the story together in a more above the fray narrator sort of way. He will wax poetically about the condition of the world – and then we’d go back into the violent chase between Llewelyn and Chigurh.

What I have really learned to appreciate about the film is the stark realism of it. I consider it a chase film – but I would imagine in real life – not every chase involves cars screeching down the highway – shooting out the windows at each other. I would imagine a more accurate real life chase would be – the chaser is always just a step behind the person being chased – just like this film. They may have just crossed paths and there’s not a bunch of unbelievable coincidences that link them and bring them together – but a rare coincidence.

I’ve also heard a theory about Chigurh – that I think is a bit stretching the character and implying things that aren’t really there – this is the one where Chigurh is the personification of death. On one hand if you beat death at his “game” (the coin flip) he’ll let you live – but that would also imply that everyone who crosses his path is marked which obviously – not everyone dies. I just think he’s scarier as an unstoppable person with no understandable morals.

So, now that I’ve seen the film 3 times – and got a better grasp – I quite like it and would rate it much higher than I did previously – but I’m still confused about some of the hype – but I’m more than happy to take Paul’s advice and “let it be”.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Shallow Grave [1994]

Sometimes the most interesting stories – are those where you just throw money into an equation between several people – and see what happens. Strangers become instant enemies – enemies become friends – and best of friends will rip each others throats out.

When three friends rent out a spare bedroom to a man who ends up dead with a suitcase full of money under his bed – greed and paranoia drives them apart.

This is kind of like the story of the three bears – you’ve got uptight over protective daddy bear played by Chris Eccleston, you’ve got middle of the road momma bear played by Kerry Fox who’s both practical and not against rolling on the floor and having fun with the immature fun-loving baby bear played by Ewan McGregor. Together their personalities really play off each other well – and even though they may have started off as friends out of necessity to rent an apartment – they have learned to live together like the above described family.

These well defined outer personalities – all lend themselves perfectly to how they end up breaking down to their base personalities once the money is introduced. And just as the analogy of the three bears plays out – you’ve got to determine who’s got it “just right” in order to survive and keep the money.

This is Danny Boyle’s first feature film – at times feels like an audition tape for his follow-up film Trainspotting. Even from the very beginning of his career it’s apparent that Boyle’s got a talented eye for composition, framing, pacing and storytelling – all things Boyle has proven time and time again in his films that he does quite well.

It would only take a jacket and a scarf to imagine Eccleston at this point in his career to see him taking on the role of Dr. Who – and plays his part with the right amount of tension. The first feature-starring role for Ewan McGregor – who shows flashes of greatness – and his heavy personality really steals several scenes. Kerry Fox is quite adept in her role – and is able to hold her own against these two future stars – and keeps you interested in her character though doesn’t really shine.

All three of the characters portrayed by Eccleston, McGregor and Fox are especially cold – and also play on a common theme that Boyle puts into several of his films regarding the often empty spiritual condition of the youth in the 90’s. Making this and some of Boyle’s follow up films very much a film of it’s time – which can make it seem rather dated in my eye – but works well never-the-less.

I don’t really have any complaints about the film other than the story is a tad bit lacking in some areas for my own tastes. I’ve seen the movie several times before – and sometimes it’s all that I can ask for – and sometimes it’s not and like I said sometimes it feels a bit dated. My last viewing I gave it a 4 out of 5 – other nights I would give it a full 5.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Seems like a good idea at the time?

I really liked the movie Avatar – I would even place it in my top 5 of 2009. It’s a stunning piece of film making. The story is a bit – been-there-done-that – but if told adeptly it makes a heck of a good movie – and Avatar is. It was the first movie I watched using new 3D technology – and even though I expected a headache – I was impressed that the whole film came through clear and beautifully layered and without headaches.

The interesting thing about Avatar is that it cost so much – that I personally feel that if they took and made the story more complex – they would’ve turned off a lot of people and they wouldn’t have been able to break even. So, the simplistic story makes sense –and it’s paying off – and will be the highest grossing film of all time shortly.

I just wonder if people are getting a little too wrapped up in the moment. There are people reporting a depression that stems from not being able to live on the Na'vi home world, Pandora. There’s a report that a province in China is cashing in – renaming a mountain after the film (which happens to have inspired the floating mountains in the film).

It can be fun to get wrapped up in a film – that’s what film viewers always crave – a great experience that sticks with you. I guess – Avatar is that to an extreme for some people now – but will it be in the future? I’ve been dumbfounded on how much technology has changed in films during my lifetime – will Avatar ever look dated?

Will it mark this time period in history like The Hurt Locker will end up defining it? Or will it help explain the malaise of the modern human condition like Up in the Air? Will it look silly that they gave the Best Picture award to this film as the momentum has suggested?

I guess what I wonder is – is it going to be winning for the visuals and not the story? It wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened – but is it right? (Not that the award means anything to me – just thinking about it)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Weekend Viewing - Jan 22-24

Extract [2009] directed by Mike Judge

Joel is having a sort of a mid-life crisis. His wife doesn’t want to sleep with him – and he’s increasingly frustrated at work and is looking to sell his extract business. His slacker friend, Dean, and him come up with a far fetched plan that will help Joel get laid with a recently hired girl, Cindy. Unbeknownst to Joel, Cindy has her own plans to help a recently injured employee sue Joel for everything he’s got.

Here’s the thing – I liked how Joel has a fairly simple problem – but come up with a very complex solution to solve that problem – yet the whole thing seems a bit forced. The screenplay seemed like a few teenagers imagining what their lives would be like – in a immature male fantasy. Nobody was really well defined as a character - which made their decision making process difficult to follow and even care about. Though the film was humorous it was never really funny – and I would really like to see Mike Judge work on his female characters. 3 out of 5 stars.

Syriana [2005] directed by Stephan Gaghan

I’m sorry – I can’t give you a synopsis to this film – as I still can’t really see what it’s about other than intrigue and corruption in the oil business and in the Middle East. Each character though well portrayed – I didn’t feel connected to – or understood what their goals were – maybe that was the point of the film - I couldn’t really tell you. This is my second viewing of the film – and I still can’t connect the dots – I’m really not trying to be ignorant – I just don’t get it and I’ve got to give it a 2 out of 5.

Y Tu Mama Tambien [2001] directed by Alfonso Cuaron

Two sexually obsessed best friends take a young jilted housewife on a road trip to a beach.

What I really liked about this film is that it kind of plays on a theme that sex isn’t always sexy. The boys are sexually obsessed – but they aren’t very good at sex – they are still young and in need of understanding the world around them and themselves in order to understand sex. When looking forward to seeing this film I read descriptions like “erotic” and “sexy” – but I couldn’t disagree more – sex is used as the tool to show the boys “growing up”.

They grow up quite a bit on the road trip with the help Luisa (the jilted housewife) – who teaches them about their own ideals and how reality is vastly different from what they want to believe. It’s very well acted – and though I wanted to slap around both of the boys – it was only because they were portraying their parts correctly that I wanted to slap them around. It’s a very good film – worth a look – if you aren’t easily offended by full frontal nudity by both sexes. I give it a 4 out of 5.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Yes, I do want to date your Avatar!

My movie crush at the moment is the jaw dropping Zoe Saldana! She can be seen in the recent films Star Trek as the young Uhura and (even though she can't be seen in the flesh) in Avatar as Neytiri. Seeing her beauty inside and out in recent interviews have sent my heart into a flutter.

*Le sigh*

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Expendables [2010]

Something that I’ve learned to enjoy more and more these days are films that are advertised to be one thing – and end up being just as advertised. Action films that are advertised as action films – wonderful! Comedies advertised as action films – can’t do it!

So, when I saw this little trailer for Sly Stallone’s The Expendables – I thought – certainly doesn’t appear to be leaving me with the idea that this will be anything other than what it appears. Look at the action stars!! Ridiculous!

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Book Of Eli [2010]

People who know me – or even have found my movie blog know I have a bit of a thing for post-apocalyptic films (see Doomsday banner up top). I’m also a big fan of Denzel Washington and Gary Oldman – so The Book Of Eli is bound to get a fab review. That’s my story – and here’s my take.

Denzel plays a “nameless” wanderer through the post-apocalyptic world – he’s headed west. He has several nightmarish encounters – and the most lasting is his stop in a small town that is ruled by a book obsessed man named Carnegie (played by Oldman). Carnegie’s men try and accost the wanderer – in your traditional western – let’s beat-up on the new guy dick measuring contest – and get their asses handed to them. This prompts Carnegie to try and recruit the wanderer – only to discover that the wanderer had more than might – he has the book he’s been after all these years.

I don’t want to give away any twists – but from what I’ve read about the advertising (which I don’t keep up with) and the probability that you’re reading this blog (which is rare) – it shouldn’t really shock you to find out that the book is the King James Bible. Carnegie wants it to rule his people – and start a frenzied religious “cult” to bend to his will. The wanderer (who’s name is Eli – which I guess isn’t that big of a twist since his name is in the title) asks his faith to guide him to a place where the book is needed.

Let’s start off with acting – which I found superb. Denzel when given a role he can do something with – is always fantastic. He pulls off the action and the drama of his character with the skill one would expect from a two-time Academy Award winner. Oldman can chew the scenery with the best of them – and in this role he is outstanding – he’s given plenty of scenery to gnaw and an adept supporting cast to play off of.

The influence of the spaghetti-western genre is strong within this film – and I would argue that with Clint Eastwood killing the traditional western (in Unforgiven) that the post-apocalyptic genre is the new western genre. There’s a real sense of a figure in space with a great sense of composition. It reminded me a lot of The Good, The Bad & The Ugly – where you were either miles away or right in the face of the subject. There is some more stylized action oriented computer helped shots – that work better in this film than I’ve seen in many lesser action films.

The plot is faith versus faith – the just versus the corrupt versions of faith. You get a snake oil salesman in every religion – who twist the words to use them for their own glory and justifications. You don’t need me to explain this – but that’s the main theme.

Lest I forget to mention – it’s an post-apocalyptic film that reminds me both of my favorite video game Fallout 3 (with its somewhat biblical themes at times it felt like a side quest) and one of my favorite films of the last decade Doomsday. There are gun fights, knife fights, explosions, car chases, cannibals, punk-rock wastelanders, and sweet sweet ultra-violence. The scenery of the wastes was brilliant – I wanted to see more – and though there’s hint of a sequel – I would be surprised if it happened.

There’s some nit-picky kind of items that I’ve noticed that a lot of people take real issue with – but given the fact that you can choose to dwell on those minor issues – or blow them up to be as important as the actual plot, acting and direction of the film is a ludicrous act. It never ceases to amaze me how these nit-picks don’t come out and use their fine-tooth comb to take apart their favorite summer blockbusters – that typically have much bigger issues – but will take issue with other films.

Yes, Eli has an MP3 player that he constantly recharges – that’s at least 30-years old and my iPod battery barely holds a charge after a couple years – plot point? Nope. Yes, Eli has very nice teeth for someone wandering the wastes – plot point? Nope. Yes, Mila Kunis looks amazing for someone who’s been raised in the post-apocalyptic era – plot point? Nope. Go ahead let these little things ruin your movie watching experience – no skin off my ass.

The only thing I wanted to do at the end of this film was to watch it again – as I felt like I wanted to do some fact checking knowing the full story. After my first viewing though I’ve decided it was as near a perfect film as I like to watch – and am giving it somewhere between 4 and 5 stars – which I usually round up.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Tooth Fairy [2010]

Here’s a review of a movie I haven’t seen.

Disney’s The Tooth Fairy starring DeWayne “The Rock” Johnson, is a riveting tale of what one man can do when put under such pressure by the corrupt and evil Easter Bunnies. The Rock plays a character who plays hockey – and he’s so very good at hockey that they call him by the time honored name “The Tooth Fairy” which is the most common hockey lingo name for a really good player.

The real Tooth Fairy society, of real fairies, need a really good hockey player to teach them how to play hockey in order to beat out the Easter Bunnies in the tournament of magical creatures. They take notice that The Rock is called The Tooth Fairy – so they fudge his application and kidnap him to make him play for their team. The Easter Bunnies don’t believe that The Rock is a real Tooth Fairy – even though The Rock has a lot of bling that has “The Tooth Fairy” on it.

So, to further the fairies plan to get The Rock to play on their hockey team – they make him work as a real Tooth Fairy – that’s where he meets Julie Andrews who I was frankly surprised to see wanted to be in movies anymore - Billy Crystal (in his best performance since My Giant) and the always hilarious Stephen Merchant (who’s famously known as the tall googly eyed guy that hangs around Ricky Gervais a lot) – they need to train The Rock to be an actual Tooth Fairy in order to keep his cover.

Everyone has a tough time at this – because The Rock is The Rock – and he teaches them how to do things his way – and they learn to appreciate him for him – The Rock learns to appreciate the fairies – and the Easter Bunnies have to forfeit the hockey game because half of them got ran over by a bus that was filled with The Rock’s real hockey pals who were put on a bus to their away game by The Rock in a surprising twist.

This movie was surprisingly violent for a Disney film – and considering the comedic talent involved I didn’t laugh once. I started wondering if I was indeed watching the correct film – so I looked at the DVD box read the description – and decided that Leonardo DiCaprio’s part is way too small. I wasn’t sure if the diamond smuggling was happening on the side or if they were mixed in with all the teeth.

Anyway, the film was good – if not a bit strange – kind of surreal in a David Lynch way but done with the blunt force of a Jerry Bruckheimer film. I recommend it completely and thinks everyone should go see it and watch past the credits for an Iron Man cameo.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Scrotum [2009]

First off – I really don’t know why Dennis Quaid is in a film called Scrotum? Why this film is even called Scrotum confuses me too. It’s about isolation on a spaceship and the cabin fever madness that they called Pandorum – which I think is a much better name for the film.

The film revolves around two guys – who wake up together in a spaceship and have to determine what’s going on. There seems to be things after them too. It kind of reminds me of Even Horizon and Super Troopers – where there’s people on a spaceship. Much like Solaris or Star Trek – with spaceship.

A spaceship goes through space.

Now, there’s some stuff that happens where they have to reboot the system of the spaceship. It doesn’t make sense as to what they think will happen – but in reality – does it? They should’ve checked the fuses before they left. Spaceships run on fuses. Also, the name of the spaceship Asylum or whatever – is a dumb name – they should’ve named it The Crazy Boat!

That one part was kind of funny where I thought they were going to have to do that one thing – but it turned out they didn’t. Then there was those things that were confusing – and they didn’t explain what was going on with them – and it was stupid.

I like very much how give a woman the need to survive in the face of monsters and she’ll dress in tight fitting leather cleavage boosting outfits. More women need to be faced with monsters in real life. Where do we keep the monsters? We need more leather and cleavage... And go-go dancing. Can all the monsters and girls just start go-go dancing please? I would’ve paid to see her go-go dance. Is there a go-go dancing club around here?

I liked seeing that main actor guy in a main acting role – he’s good at his other stuff where he plays bad guys or whatever he’s done before – I know he’s been in stuff. He should be in even more stuff. Good stuff even. Stuff I might want to see. Dennis Quaid was pretty good too – not as good as he was in that Bonnie Raitt video though where it was the same concept and he was in a different room all the time – not even facing the monsters – or Bonnie Raitt in this case.

There’s that one thing that I couldn’t disagree with more – but I’m sure in the future when we have to do all this stuff we’ll figure that one out. Since I figured it out now – maybe I should put it down here so they can go through my blog and find out and not have this problem in the future. Here it is – spaceships should have thicker glass – maybe bulletproof – maybe some kind of future resin that’s really super strong. I would also recommend that you used plenty of batteries – just in case. The wind-up control panels were a good touch though – I wouldn’t have thought of that – but I’m glad you did.

What this movie needs is Giovanni Ribisi – since he’s what made Avatar the best. Imagine if he came in and Ribisi’ed it up – and then you wouldn’t have needed that one guy who looked like Hayden Christiansen who needs to be shot out an airlock. I don’t care. Shut up. I figured it out long time before that so shut up. Don’t make me get the ice cream scoop!

I’m giving this film 3 out of 5 stars because it’s not going to get 5 and 4 seems generous considering there was stuff that made me dribble beer down my chin and pause the movie and clean up – but it kept me entertained sufficiently for the required amount of time – I could’ve given it 2 but I didn’t get mad at the movie enough and 1 is reserved for films that piss me off so much that I get pissed off.

PS: All spaceships need a kung-fu guy – any new film with spaceships that do not have kung-fu guy will be judged harshly as such.