This Week In Blockbusters: Johnny Depp And Christia Bale Are "Public Enemies" And "Ice Age" Brings Back The Dinosaurs

on Tuesday, June 30, 2009   0 comments

Ah, the fourth of July. An extended weekend full of barbecue, fireworks, and big summer releases. Though, if I may be so bold, this year's tent-pole release date isn't as strong as I feel like it has been in the past. Though, perhaps this is because Will Smith is nowhere to be found, Michael Bay has already released his movie, and Arnold Schwarzenegger is still doing that whole 'politics' thing. This has been a big week for blockbusters in past years. Three of the four Die Hard films came out this weekend, where the phrase "yippee-ki-yay mother fucker" became oddly patriotic, Will Smith has had so many openers on this weekend it could practically be named after him (including the Men In Black movies, Hancock, Wild Wild West, and the appropriately titled Independence Day, which features the best presidential address since Gettysburgh), Superhero films have flourished and failed, and Michael Bay has decided fireworks just weren't explosive enough to celebrate the fourth like our forefathers would want, so decided he'd blow some shit up himself. Tack on some Terminator movies, more movies about alien invasions like War of the Worlds, and we've got ourselves a federal holiday. (But seriously, what is it about this weekend that spawns space oriented/heavy science fiction

Not so this year. When you look at the smash-hit lists from yesteryear, this weekend looks relatively tame. But that's not to say it won't be fun. First we'll have Johnny Depp and Christian Bale step out from two of the most financially successful film franchises ever and lend their talents to Public Enemies, a film about the depression bank-robbing wave lead by John Dillinger. Depp stars as Dillinger, and Bale stars the FBI agent, Melvin Purvis, who is trying to catch him.

My first fear is that Bale will still be locked in intense-grunt mode left over after The Dark Knight and Terminator Salvation. Assuming that isn't the case, this looks to be a rather enthralling film. Early reviews are pretty positive, praising both the actors as well as director Michael Mann. Dillinger was treated as a hero to many, who saw him as a modern day Robin Hood. But he was a killer as well. America had a rather strange habit glorifying and mythologizing our criminals. (I'm sorry, did I say had? Insert: Joke about any rapper). Bonnie and Clyde, Baby Face Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, Ma Barker; these people of the 'Public Enemy' era captivated U.S. press as they went on their crime sprees in the Midwest. Some people have since forgot how ruthless these people could be, and that they did, in fact, shoot a lot people in the face. John Dillinger himself was one of the most famous, known as 'Jackrabbit' for his speed and grace in heists (he was known to leap over furniture, something seen in the trailer for the film. Hooray accuracy!)

We also see in the preview that, during a bank heist, a bystander pulls out his money. "We're here for the bank's money," Dillinger says, "Not yours." Never mind that the bank's money belongs to him, and anyone who puts their money in the bank... But it was acts like this that made people transform him into some sort of hero. I am interested to see how the film portrays him.

Though this role is also surprisingly normal for the likes of Johnny Depp. Are we absolutely certain he won't be tripping on acid the entire time, or dressed up like this:

I'm sure he'll find some way to quirk up this role.

This will draw in some crowds, certainly, but I'm going to guess the Transformers shadow is going to linger for this weekend.

Excitement Buzz: 7.8/10

Also coming out this Wednesday is the family film Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Now, I'm not one for historical accuracy, but this genre is starting to push even my limits. In the first film, the Ice Age began. Apparently, in the second, what seemed like 16 seconds later, it began to "Melt Down." Now, in the third one, it's the Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Really? Didn't they die out long before mastodons and woolly mammoths walked the earth? There sure seems to be a predominance of mammals in this series for there to be T-Rex's walking around. I'm okay with this, save for the fact that there are going to be very confused kids concerning particular geological time lines.

But it's okay! Because this doesn't actually claim that Dinosaurs didn't come around until this point in history. In Ice Age 3, they were believed to be extinct for a long time, but actually lived in a secret land under the earth's surface. How original, I don't think I've ever heard of that-

Alright, this whole 'dinosaurs living underground' bit needs to stop.

I actually really liked the first Ice Age film. I thought it was original, and interesting. The aspect of saving the human baby, along with Manny's tragic history involving humans, gave some pretty serious stuff for a kid's movie. The next film, however, looked too generic and standard 'cartoon sequel' like, where the plot consisted of "let's reverse the first movie" and whose purpose was to show more of Scrat's antics as he chased his acorn. Now this one seems to be, "okay, let's have them face dinosaurs!" I've seen bits and pieces of the second film, and wasn't just wildly impressed, and am not expecting much out of this. But perhaps I'm being unfair.

So while this is purely family fanfare, it might pull in some cash over the holiday weekend.

Excitement buzz: 4/10

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Transformers Breaks The 200 Million Mark

on Monday, June 29, 2009   0 comments

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen blew up the record books, despite, or perhaps because of, its only upside being "blowing stuff up." The movie has been critically panned, but that's okay, a lot of times I'll like movies critics despised, and so will the rest of we normal viewers who saw the film. Only I have heard such negative things about this movie I can't possibly believe word-of-mouth is very positive. Apparently it's like watching a giraffe pee all over the Mona Lisa: visually impressive, but absolutely horrifying to behold (come on, you know that would be a sweet image).

Despite this, it managed to pull in 201 Million Dollars in its first five days. It came dangerously close to knocking The Dark Knight out of its first place spot for that record, which I think would have caused a batman fanboy uprising like we haven't seen since the great Batman and Robin debacle of '97. Transformers put it's name on all kinds of record books, including one of the biggest Wednesday openings ever. In fact, of it's 201 million, only 112 came during the weekend. The rest was from Wednesday and Thursday showings, probably paid for by 14 year old boys ever, who probably loved it in a Megan-Fox-has-nice-boobies kind of way. Older guys still see that as a plus, but they still seem to notice some of the more atrocious aspects of the movie, like Robot Heaven. Now All Dogs Go to Heaven was a fantastic childhood film, but I don't think celestial paradise for car-robots is as impactful. Oh, it's also really fucking stupid.

But the damge is done, and the money is in. It also pulled in a cool 180 million overseas, which puts this as the king of the summer, and has put up numbers hard to beat. Let's hope Harry Potter can work some magic, I know the fans are anxious.

The other new opener this week, the weep-fest My Sister's Keeper fizzled at 12 million in its first three days. This was a little surprising, I thought it might pull a Mama Mia and draw in females and people over 30 who thought Transformers to be a little too boistorous for their palate. Alas, it did not, finishing in fifth place. The Proposal, The Hangover, and Up, managed to hold onto their high place in the box office rankings.

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Movie Review: My Sister's Keeper. I'm The Only Male In The U.S. That Saw This Instead Of Transformers

on Sunday, June 28, 2009   6 comments

While all you poor saps were sitting through the bombastic train wreck I understand Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen to be (I'll be seeing it shortly), I was sitting through the 'Anti-Transformers' movie of the weekend, much like Mama Mia was the Anti-Dark Knight last summer. The theater I was in was actually packed with people, so much that when an older gentlemen with a walker came in, the groups that took up each handicap spot avoided each other's gaze, because whoever stood for him was going to have very limited choice in seating. In the end none of them stood. Assholes.

It was an ironic beginning for a movie entitled My Sister's Keeper, a play on the biblical question, "Am I my brother's keeper?" To which the answer is, indubitably, 'Yes,' since the person asking is Cain, the first murderer. Apparently, those in the handicap section forgot that, and let the old man find his own damn seat.

Now, for starters, I give you a warning. Only go see this movie if you want to have your emotions manipulated like Play-Doh. If you're not willing to sit through some sappy, melodramatic scenes, you'd best get your tears elsewhere. I understand there's "Transformer's Heaven" in that other movie, I'm sure that's pretty touching. Everything in this movie is written to shape your emotions as the creators desired. So if you're willing, it does a decent job at it.

That's not saying this movie, about a family struggling through a fifteen-year-old's battle with cancer, doesn't have some genuine moments. There's some real drama mixed in with the melodrama. My point is that the film works really, really, hard to get you to cry, with everyone involved. As if the battle with cancer wasn't enough, they decided to have a very minor character have an entire scene devoted to her struggle coping with the death of her 12 year old daughter. Necessary? Absolutely not. But my theater was sniffling.

Which is to say one thing about the movie: it is very well acted. The character mentioned above is actually the Judge in the court case I will explain very shortly, and she's played well by Joan Cusack. When this relatively unimportant character draws tears from the audience, it must be a fine actress playing the part. And the rest of the cast does a great job as well. There's only one weak link, the son played by Evan Ellingson, but he's still more than acceptable. He's also given the most melodramatic role to play at the film's climax, so the writing could be to blame.

The film is about (finally, a synopsis) the Fitzgerald family working through the cancer struggle of their fifteen year old daughter, Kate (Sofia Vassilieva). The mother, Sara (Cameron Diaz), is a fierce, relentless warrior-mom, doing everything she possibly can to let her daughter survive. The father Brian (Jason Patric) is a little mellower, and tries to ensure his daughter's happiness. But when it becomes clear Kate is going to need a lot of tough medical work, the two decide the best route is to create little Anna, played by Abigail Breslin. Abigail is genetically engineered en vitro to be a perfect match for Kate, a bag of organs and blood that will be able to swap sisters when Kate really needs it. And she does, a lot. We find out Anna has undergone numerous procedures, some fairly serious, by the time she is 11, all in the name of helping her sister. But one day, little 11 year old Anna walks into the law office of Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), who thinks she's selling girl scout cookies. Turns out, she wants to sue her parents for the medical rights to her own body. They have recently learned Kate needs a new kidney, or she will go into complete renal failure and die. Turning to their spare-daughter once more, Anna seems to decide she can't take it. The risks of having one kidney, and the cost it will lay on her later in life (she couldn't be as active as the other girls, would have to be more careful, there are more risks in pregnancy, etc. etc.) is too high. "I'm important too!" She screams at her mother, who had slapped her when she was first served the legal papers.

If that sounds like an interesting premise, it is. The movie breaks the melodrama just enough to raise the interesting, ethical questions that the film is actually dealing with. And it is an intriguing one. "Can you bring a child into being in order to harvest her organs for another? What are the repercussions? What does it do to the child? To the family? Okay, now more crying." After the initial questions are asked, it brings them back up only every now and then. Brian, in particular, seems to understand the dilemma, more than Sara, who thinks Anna is killing her sister. But the question is largely forgotten so we don't have to be all philosophical while we weep.

As I said, the film is acted very well. Each character does exactly what their role calls for them. And even when it doesn't call for much, they make that position worth watching. The two female children are fantastic. Sofia Vassilieva is spectacular and moving as the dying Kate, who is a child in years but an adult in tribulations. She conveys just the right emotions at just the right time, with one rather hilarious exception where those in charge decided, in one of the film's many flashbacks, that Kate went through a rebellious, emo stage. That's the only time Kate didn't work. She was usually just a sweet natured girl, trying to live in the situation she was put in.

Then there's Abigail Breslin, who is not only an adorable child actress, but also immensely talented. Abigail, I beg of you, don't walk the path that so many have before you! She really is too sweet and too talented to fall the way of Lindsay Lohan. (For those who are unaware, Abigail is already an Academy Award nominated actress). She plays Anna perfectly, protective of and devoted to her sister, who is clearly her best friend. She and Vassilieva give moving performances, worthy to melt even the coldest of hearts.

Brian and Jesse Fitzgerald are backgrounds in this matriarchal family structure. Brian is a good father, who has "lost the love of his life" according to Kate, since Sara has dropped everything to help her daughter, including her husband. Brian doesn't resent this, and understands the struggle. He cares immensely for his daughter's happiness, and it shows. Jesse is a largely forgotten character. It's implied he's somewhat of a delinquent, a subplot that is much more fleshed out in the original novel. But even he gets some sweet moments in. And an incredibly cheesy one where he tears up a painting and let's it blow off the top of a building.

Cameron Diaz's first foray into cinematic motherhood is an interesting one. I don't think it was her fault that Sara came off as such a bitch, but just the way the character was formed. She makes it quite clear her loyalties lie with her eldest daughter, and her eldest daughter alone. But even so, she is incredibly blind, and never realizes that the person who should be the most upset about Anna's decision, isn't, and in fact the two sisters seem closer than ever. Anna isn't a selfish girl wanting her sister to die, but Sara just can't lose, and shields herself from the glaring truth: Kate wants it to end. Sara has never listened to her when she's spoken like that, always telling her to keep pushing, so Kate has to resort to getting her younger sister to fight the battle for her. And though Sara is stubborn, she is doing it for all the right reasons, and it would be hard to judge a person in her situation. And she has glimmering moments of kindness. She shaves her head bald to look like her daughter, she gets giddy when taking pictures of her daughter before a dance, and she has perhaps the most moving transformation of the movie.

I would also like to compliment Thomas Dekker, who plays Taylor, Kate's boyfriend and inspiration for part of the film, who naturally has cancer as well. Though it comes to a tragic and predictable end, their romance is pretty genuine. It has the innocence of their youth but the weight of maturity, as they both understand the uncertainties of tomorrow. Yeah, it's a little awkward because he looks ten years older, and it's strange seeing the two bald patients spooning in the nude (blech), but it was a nice relationship to watch. He definitely has a little Edward Cullen in him, seeing as he was quiet and expressionless for the better part of his presence. But he also didn't make me want to hit him, something Edward Cullen does every time he's on screen.

Oh, and we can add this to the "Movie's I've laughed in more than Year One list." Sure, a lot of the laughter is of the "Oh thank God, some comic relief after watching the young chemo-patient throw up into a trashcan," variety, but it's laughter nonetheless.

The ending of the movie is sad, but predictable. Unless, of course, you've read the book, which ends completely differently. And for those who thought the movie was depressing, you better be glad they altered it. In the book, the end actually has Anna getting in a car crash and being left brain dead. Her lawyer, Campbell Alexander, has the rights to make her medicinal decisions (since they had won their lawsuit) and has them give Kate her kidney. The book ends with Anna dying, and Kate surviving the transplant, but still sick with cancer. Damn, now that's a real bummer.

One of the more glaring complaints I have with this movie is that the first third is told largely in voice over vignettes from different members of the family. This was likely done to keep the style of the book, which alternates narrators between chapters, but it's a tactic that ultimately does not work in film. There's quite a large chunk of movie spent on sad montages and a dramatic voice over, a tactic I thought distracted from the film and convoluted the style. It worked quite well in Watchmen, but here it never really added much, but was used because they couldn't think of another way to get their point across.

So did I cry in this movie? No. My eyes welled a few times, but a tear never fell. My theater, however, was full of sniffles that actually made it hard to hear the movie. Now I've said this movie is melodramatic, and it was, and it's one of its greatest faults. There's a difference between a story that is sad and packaging sadness in story form in order to illicit an emotion from your audience. With every little piece of the film trying to get you to cry, I wonder if Kleenex had some investment in this film. It gets exhausting, and I would have rather them tried to make a movie that happened to be sad than try to flood the world with the tears of the viewers.

But it has some truly genuine moments, and has that fantastic ethical premise, with strong outings from all involved. So if you want to be moved (superficially and legitimately), this is a good movie to go to.

Rating: 7/10

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Death Week '09

on Sunday, June 28, 2009   0 comments

This was, truly, a sad week for famous people. On Tuesday, television great Ed McMahon passed away at the age of 86 years old. He was perhaps known best for his work as the announcer for The Tonight Show starring the late, great Johnny Carson. He also hosted Star Search for twelve years, and was a beloved comedian and television personality. He was also decorated Marine pilot, with 6 Air Medals to his name.

Two days later, former Charlie's Angel and renowned pin up girl Farrah Fawcett passed away in a battle with cancer at the age of 62. It's funny, but this chick was obviously so hot that her name spilled over into my generation, even though she was 41 when I was born. When you're a sex symbol who is remembered by young men and you're over sixty, meaning you didn't die young like Marilyn Monroe, you obviously did something right.

Unfortunately for Ms. Fawcett, she could not have passed away on a worse day. Her death was drastically overshadowed. I don't know if you've heard, but Michael Jackson died later on that same Thursday. Apparently the entire world is shook up over this death, and perhaps rightly so. His close friend Liza Manelli has said that once the autopsy report goes public, "All hell will break loose." Ominous words, for sure.

Since then I have heard nothing on the radio but Michael Jackson, and the TV has been playing his old videos nonstop. Two things are abundantly clear:

1. That guy had immense talent. He created that dance style out of nothing, and was a fantastic song writer. I have never really listened to his music. I knew the timeless songs, "Thriller" and the like, but that dude had some great stuff that, while popular at the time, has been stood up by the aforementioned "Thriller" and his other mega-huge hits.

2. That guy was a freak. There's no getting around it. He mutilated his face so that it no longer looked human, he wore the most bizarre clothing around, and there's always the infamous 'Neverland Ranch' to keep that cloud of doubt hanging over his legacy. It's really quite sad. His parents messed up his life from the get-go, if you do a little research you'll learn some of the most horrific things about his childhood. I'm sure Michael Jackson died a very lonely, very depressed man, despite the hordes of fans who are now mourning him.

But watching those music videos and hearing his songs, I realize that that Michael Jackson died long ago. Before his skin turned white, and his nose turned to a razorblade, that dude was the most bad-ass effeminate man to walk the planet. In fact, I daresay he's the only bad-ass effeminate man to have ever lived.

When asked about his plastic surgery, he famously said, "that's just ignorance." He then said they were natural changes to his body, implying even that 'puberty' was to blame. His skin-changing color is perhaps a more controversial issue. Rumors still persist that he bleached his skin to appear more white, while he was always said it is due the diseases vitiligo and lupus.

Right now, his wikipedia page informs me that he was the first Jewish man to set foot on the sun, and that "HE LIKED PEACHES" as the first entrants. I wouldn't cite those as fact just yet, though.

As if this barrage of bad news wasn't enough, today I find out the most tragic news yet, that Billy Mays, that guy you know from every late night infomercial you've ever watched, has died. He almost convinced me many times to purchase Oxiclean or another one of those super-handy cleaning products.

Seriously, that guy was incredibly entertaining. I'm actually very upset I'll never actually consider buying useless shit again, because there is no way they can find a suitable replacement. "Would you like to buy a broom that doubles as a toaster?" "Well yes I would, Billy Mays, thank you." I'm sure right now he's selling stain remover to the angels, who don't even need it, since their clothes are always spotless.

So RIP, celebrity friends who I've never actually met, but are all over the media now. And now, I'm not even going to take a side on whether Michael was guilty of what he was accused of or not. But I know for damn sure the media wasn't on his side. Now they're revering him like he was a God.

Media, thy name is Janus.

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Cracked: Michael Bay's "The Great Gatsby"

on Friday, June 26, 2009   1 comments

I lately discovered, which has quickly become one of my favorite websites on the net. I laugh a lot while reading some of their stuff, more than I think a normal person should. And today, I read a piece that I had to get a link to here, in case there are some readers out there that have never been. (Usually it's the big websites that help out the little guy, but not me. This is truly a David helping Goliath, as if they needed my aid. I'm sure they'll thank me for the shout-out).

It's a piece on Michael Bay, and I sat here in my little area at work, literally holding back laughter until my stomach hurt and tears were pouring out my eyes. I was working really hard to laugh quietly, but it became harder and harder to do as it went on. Now I think I have a ruptured spleen from buckling over in complete hilarity. I should probably get to the hospital.

I'm sure there's a lawsuit here somewhere.

Link is here.

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J.J. Abrams On Star Trek Sequel

on Friday, June 26, 2009   0 comments

Steve Weintrub at got the chance to ask J.J. Abrams, director of the recent smash Star Trek (among many other successes) about the prospect of a follow-up. You can (and should) watch the video and read his article at the link above. The highlight question, at least for me, was this:

Q: Everyone wants to know, what are the chances of you getting back in the director’s chair?

Abrams: We just started talking about ideas… we’ve just begun this process so it’s so early that it’s insane to, you know - I have no idea; but I would say that it’s that kind of feeling that as we’re talking about stories you start to salivate, like ‘oh my God I can’t wait to do that!’ and so that feels good and my guess is that as we continue it will become clearer how we will plan out what will happen. But it’s been really fun - even the cursory discussions we’ve had so far

So I'm no detective, but it sounds to me like he's excited to do another one. Which bodes well for Trekkies (both of the original and the 'Abrams' variety) everywhere.

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First "Amelia" Preview

on Friday, June 26, 2009   0 comments

Filmschoolrejects has put up the first preview for the historical biopic Amelia, starring Hilary Swank. It is embedded above, and looks intriguing. It certainly has a fine cast, with Hilary Swank in the leading roll. Richard Gere (I usually like him, outside of his standard chick flicks) and Ewan McGregor costar in what looks to be a promising film.

Swank is a great actress (with a funny name), who has proven herself in movies like Million Dollar Baby, so much that we forget she was ever in The Next Karate Kid. She was young then, we shall forgive.

I do wonder how they will handle a movie where the only thing known about the title character by mainstream audiences is the ending, but that ending is 'nobody knows what happened.' I suppose I should warn spoiler, for those of you who are historically ignorant, but Amelia Earhart vanished in attempting her flight around the world. So everyone knows that she isn't going to make it. That's fine, I suppose, there have been plenty of biopics where the ending is no surprise. But I do wonder if they'll show the crash. I hope they don't, because so much of the history is that no one knows exactly what happened. Showing her crash would definitely be 'Hollywood-izing' the story. It's not as bad as Michael Bay's molesation of Pearl Harbor, but it should be left unshown.

Maybe she's on the island in Lost. Are you reading this, J.J. Abrams?

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In Other News

on Thursday, June 25, 2009   0 comments

The Video-game movie Hitman has a sequel under works, meaning there will be a sequel to a movie that was not received well by critics or fans, or box office revenues, before I see another Superman movie. Verily, the world is not fair.

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Transformers Demolishes Record For Wednesday Opening

on Thursday, June 25, 2009   4 comments

Evidently the explosives used to make Michael Bay's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen were also used to completely destroy the old record for Wednesday openings. It racked in almost 61 million in its opening day, 16 of it coming from midnight showings. The previous holder was Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix which opened to 44.2 million. This is a huge blockbuster opening, and could put us back on the summer movie money train, which has hit a small bump. There were still some successes, but Up made in its first weekend what Transformers has made in its opening day, in the middle of the week no less. /Film estimates earnings from 150-170 million by the time the weekend is over.

After leaving the shit-tacular Year One in a daze on Tuesday evening, I was slowly brought back to life by the army of teens and tweens lined up to see this movie, two hours early for its release. The only people over 18 had brought painted boxes and dressed up like transformers themselves. I'm not judging. It was an impressive sight, and made me look forward to the next midnight release I go to, whatever that will be. Though I hope that one will have a smaller concentration of children. Even Harry Potter will bring in the 'generation one' kids that are my age. This looked like a Jonas Brothers concert, though perhaps the male/female ration was about 50/50 rather than 1-gay-kid/99. Again, not judging. But I gather the Jonas Brothers more successful with the effeminate.

Anyway, expect some triple digit numbers for the first time since Star Trek if my memory serves me correctly. Which it doesn't, a little research tells me. We haven't seen a triple digit opening weekend yet.

Until now.

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Valerie Reviews "Transformers"

on Wednesday, June 24, 2009   0 comments

Valerie Atherton has put up her review of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Not surprisingly, since Shia Labeouf is in it, she loved it.  She definitely understands Megan Fox's acting talents.

The link is here.

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Breaking News: Next Academy Awards Ceremony Will Have 10 Best Picture Nominees

on Wednesday, June 24, 2009   7 comments

Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that they will now be doubling the nominees for the Oscar for Best Picture from five to ten, starting next year. This is a huge move for the Academy, and could be a reaction to some of the criticisms they've faced in the last few years. It had gotten to be a very indie-leaning, small budget, less known/popular movie awards show. Slumdog Millionaire was an exception, but the other nominees were hardly box-office big dogs. They've been criticized for this as of late, while critically acclaimed, popular, profitable movies like The Dark Knight were discredited, because of the uptight voters in the Academy. Hopefully with this change, it will allow them to broaden the scope of what type of film can win an oscar. Action and Comedy have been pushed aside for drama as of late. There was a time when Raiders of the Lost Ark and Star Wars were nominated, while I have a hard time seeing that happening today just based on the way the Academy votes. Hell, even Babe was nominated in '95.

So perhaps we'll get back to the roots, when there were as many as 12 nominees for best picture. This will hopefully allow them to keep nominating the smaller films, which are typically very good deserving, while also getting in some of the more popular films, which can be just as deserving as well, despite their huge profit margins...

I also expect this to be a move to help bolster ratings of the show, which have been declining over the last decade or so. So will we see movies like Up, maybe even Star Trek, in the running at next years Oscars?

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Year One: I Almost Laughed More In Schindler's List

on Wednesday, June 24, 2009   0 comments

I'll say this about Year One, I'd rather watch it than get cancer. That's one of the few positive things I can say about this movie.

Let me preface what is about to be my most scathing review to date by saying this: I'm pretty forgiving, movie-wise. If a film has some glaring issues, but I'm still entertained, I'll give it a good review. I'll point out the flaws, sure, but explain why they're forgivable when taking in the whole picture. I really try to find positives in movies, which is why I'm surprised whenever I really don't like one. And I really didn't like Year One. I'm going to break a lot of rules with this review, namely "don't plot summarize." But let me explain why. I'm going to do it so I can go through each plot point piece by piece and tell you exactly why I hated it. Also I hope to leave you certain that you don't want to see this movie. Believe me, I know what it's like to read negative reviews and think that you might still like it. I did it with this very film. Don't do it. If you want to be entertained for nine bucks, get 900 pennies and throw them at small children. Guaranteed to be more fun than Year One.

The movie starts out introducing Zed (Jack Black), who is an idiot, fat 'hunter' in a small tribe of primitive people. His best, and only friend Oh (Michael Cera) is a 'gatherer,' a much more effeminate job, which consists of picking berries "that have the least amount of bird shit on them." The fact that they took the term 'hunter-gatherer' and applied them to the two only jobs in this tribe is, in fact, one of the wittier high points of the movie. It degrades quickly from here, with the bar already set pretty low.

Zed and Oh are both attracted to two different girls in the tribe who want nothing to do with them, and want to be with the 'stud' hunters. Get it? It's like high-school.  The whole movie plays with anachronism, putting modern social norms in a biblical setting, or having the two leads play themselves, but as cavemen.  Oh is in love with Eema (Juno Temple), who is Zed's younger sister. This fact plays absolutely no part in the movie, as Zed never shows anything resembling familial ties to her, other than to set up a joke, if we can call it that, that reveals Zed had sex with his mother. He makes the joke, it's not funny, and then he persists with it, and it never gets funny, until you're left wondering if there were people behind the camera drowning themselves in absinthe to numb the pain. And suddenly you wish there were a bar in this damn theater, because you just spent nine dollars a ticket and ten dollars on snacks only to have your entire outlook on life embittered.

Such is the plague of this movie. Unfunny jokes that last too long. In fact, at 100 minutes, the movie itself runs to long. I'd have cut it off at about five.

Zed, in order to get some respect in the tribe, goes to the forbidden Tree of Knowledge and eats of the golden fruit. For this he is banished from the tribe, but leaves with Oh convinced that he is a genius, and destined for greatness. They then go through various biblical characters in a haphazard manner, all of which could have been hysterical, few of which were. First they come upon Cain and Abel... No, excuse me. First they come along a pile of dung. So of course, Jack Black's going to eat it.

ASIDE: I'm sorry, we're going to have to dissect the poo joke here, because it's a humor phenomena worth studying. It is a very delicate joke, one that if you choose to perform, you'd best do it well. It better be absolutely hysterical, because otherwise you're the idiot that just attempted a joke involving fecal matter that nobody laughed at. Now let's go through the many rules of the poo joke.

1. It has to have a purpose.

I think that's all we really need to explain why Year One's attempt at this comedy gem failed so miserably. It is not funny for somebody to just find shit and put it in their mouth. But that's pretty much what happens. So the purpose is: that he eats shit for no purpose! Do you see what they did there? They thought it would be funny to have somebody consume doodie when he had no reason to do so. That does not work with shit jokes. All you did was disgust me, you didn't make me laugh. In American Wedding, we had Stiffler eating dog poo, because he had lost he wedding ring in a dog's bowles and the relatives thought he was carrying a chocolate truffle. In desperation, he shoved it in his mouth. It was a gross out move (all poo jokes are), but it was also pretty damn funny. It had a set-up, it had a reason, and it made me laugh. Austin Powers had Mike Myers drink poo when he thought it was coffee. Once again, there was a point. He didn't know he had poured the wrong cup, but the audience did. You watched tensely wondering if they were actually going to show it, and you guffawed when they did. Bonus points when he took a second sip and said, "it's a bit nutty." And of course, Dumb and Dumber has one of the most successful poo jokes in history.

If you're wondering, the second rule of the poo joke is "It has to be funny," a rule that was also broken here.

So now they come upon Cain and Abel, who don't get along. There was a line in the preview that really made me look forward to this scene, "This is my brother Cain, and I am called Abel." "You are called Suck." David Cross's and Paul Rudd's banter looked promising. Then I got to the movie, and the 'suck' joke was extended until it wasn't funny anymore. And nothing else about that scene was either. I suppose we were supposed to laugh as the fratricidal Cain brutally beat Abel with a rock. Then he said, "what have I done?" But Abel stirs. So he picks up the rock and beats Abel again. "What have I done, again?" he wails. But Abel stirs once more, so Cain rolls his eyes and starts again, moaning, "What do I continue to do?" in a faux distraught voice. LOL! So funny. David Cross, perhaps the most ardent hater of 'obvious humor,' should go bathe the hypocrisy off himself, along with any semblance of humor he has left.

By convincing, and threatening, Zed and Oh to stay quiet, Cain invites the two to eat dinner with his family, which includes father Adam, retarded son Seth---

ANOTHER ASIDE: Retarded jokes. Once again, they need a purpose. I'm not just going to laugh at the mentally handicapped because they're mentally handicapped. I know, there are people who say it's wrong to ever make the joke, but if the joke is going to be made, you're going to have to do more than make him sound autistic. END ASIDE.

---and daughter Lilith. Adam (director Harold Ramis) has nothing funny to say, at all. Oh and Seth share a bed for the night, all the while Seth shows off his flatulence to Oh, laughing hysterically after each one.

YET ANOTHER SIDE: Fart jokes. When is the last time I actually laughed at a fart joke in a movie? They are so terribly cliched, so generic, so easy, and so bland I think I pretty much always think less of a movie that has one. Remember Adam Sandler's Click? That movie might have been better, had it not had an extended sequence where Adam Sandler farts into David Hasselhoff's mouth. Year One is no better. In fact, it's worse, because this time David Hasselhoff is nowhere to be found.

I can actually think of of the last time, and it was Jack Black in Tropic Thunder. But that whole scene was a parody of the fart joke, and of The Nutty Professor, which might be the only other time I've laughed at cinema flatulence.

Zed sleeps the night with Lilith, hoping to 'lay with' her, only to find out she's a lesbian. Once again, it's a pointless idea that ultimately serves no purpose, save a line from Zed which is one of the funnier lines of the movie, "I'm sorry, I wasn't listening. All my brain blood was in my boner."

Zed, Oh, and Cain leave Adam, after Abel's body is discovered. There's a 'Mark of Cain' joke I wouldn't have gotten were I not familiar with the play Children of Eden, but since I was it was actually kind of funny. Or maybe I took pleasure in watching the irritating Cain get struck by lighting. They arrive in a town, where they find their entire tribe has been kidnapped and are being sold as slaves of the Sodomites. Now we get to the 'plot,' if you can call it that, as the set up for the movie is about the two heroes saving their women from servitude.

Eventually the two end up meeting Abraham (Hank Azaria) on a mountain top, poised and ready to stab his son Isaac (Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who might as well change his name to 'Mclovin'). I was hoping, praying, that Hank Azaria might save this film. He's one of my favorite character actors, and is one of the funniest men in Hollywood. He has his moments, but his screen time is too brief and jokes too few to really salvage anything. There's a decent gag about his obsession with circumcision, but he's soon gone and forgotten.

They end up in Sodom (I couldn't believe this movie only made on 'sodomy' joke) and find their women enslaved by the king. The princess Inanna (Olivia Wilde) is disgusted with her society, and how the people are treated, so she's starving herself in protest. What a martyr. She sees in Jack Black an opportunity to start a revolution, since he was too enamored with her to bow as she passed on the street.

Oh is forced to follow around the high priest, played by Oliver Platt, who is another one of my favorite character actors. And he does a pretty good job here; he's subtle enough with his wispy, homosexual voice, and ignorance of anything spiritual, to bring out some chuckles. I got a good chuckle out of him saying, "It looks like a smiley face, which makes me happy," while reading pig entrails for the future. But once more, it's not enough. It's pretty funny to watch him force Oh to rub oil all over his fat, hairy chest, and his lines make it even better. But when all is said and done, this last fleeting hope for some real comedy dies like the dreams of idiots who want to be astronauts.

Michael Cera and Jack Black play the same characters they always do, but for some reason they just weren't funny here. Black especially, who was more annoying and less likeable than usual. Cera is the master of deadpan, he's great at getting chuckles but never gut-wrenching laughter. And there are times where his quiet lines were passably quotable. He's the only thing that perhaps almost comes close to possibly thinking about considering to save this movie.

This film, I knew, would either be great or be terrible, there was no middle ground. I still like the premise, and think it could have been done with satire and wit that could have made this truly memorable. The material was all there, but they went with fart jokes and poop eating instead. I came dreadfully close to walking out, which I have never done before. I was ready for it to be over about halfway through, and as it drags on (and drags it does), the jokes get scarcer and scarcer, and I just couldn't wait for those credits to roll. Then hopefully I could get therapy and, in time, be happy again.

Here's the real kicker though. For most of the movie, it wasn't that I wasn't laughing at their jokes, it's that there weren't jokes to laugh at. Or if they were, they were so incredibly unfunny that they weren't even recognizable attempts at humor. Either way, this film is a laughless, joyless, witless, waste of time and money I cannot beg you enough to stay away from. I pretty much mentioned all of the remotely funny parts here, just so you now have no reason to see it. So you're welcome, there's no need to thank me.

I didn't see Land of the Lost, which was also critically panned, and I'm sure many thought would be the bomb of the summer. Somehow I can't imagine it being worse than Year One. In fact, I bet the latter makes the former look like Casablanca. Expect Year One to take every 'Razzie' award next year.

That a man directly involved in Ghostbusters, Groundhog Day, and Caddyshack could come out with something so God-awfully terrible as this astounds me. I think we'd be breaking ten laws of the Geneva Convention if we showed this to our Gitmo prisoners.

Movies funnier than Year One:

-The Hangover
-Rosemary's Baby
-The Exorcist
(Seriously. The line "There's an alien pubic hair in my drink," gave more laughs).
-Old Yeller
-The Birds
-Requiem for a Dream
-Sophie's Choice
-The Miracle of Life
(yeah, that one you watched in your biology class)
-Hello Kitty Island Adventure

Rating: 3/10

Just so we can kind of see where that lies, I mention my hatred for Twilight often, but I'd still put that movie at about a 5.2.

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This Week in Blockbusters: That One Movie... Whatsit... The Robot Thing

on Tuesday, June 23, 2009   0 comments

Just kidding. Tonight at midnight people will be lined up to see the sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, the followup to the smash hit from 2007. Directed by Michael Bay, this is guaranteed to have spectacular special effects, lots of action, and shit blowing up.

I'm going to be completely honest. I didn't like, nay, I almost hated the first Transformers. I watched it in a dorm room full of people, and managed to fall asleep on and off starting about halfway through, despite the 'booms' of explosions echoing in my ears. It was pretty funny, I suppose, and Megan Fox is so hot it's not fair (I didn't tell anyone, but I'm actually the kid whose flower she didn't take), but I found myself exceptionally bored. I'm all for dumb action films that exists for pure entertainment, but I still look for some substance. I couldn't find it in Transformers. Dumb action films, like dumb comedies, have to be smart to work (oxymoronic, isn't it?) I don't hate Michael Bay, at all. I like the Bad Boys series, despite their critical failures, and The Rock is one of my favorite action movies (though this is a little more plot oriented than some of this other work). The Island had an interesting premise, before it fell into utter chaos (but at least it was still entertaining chaos). Transformers just never made sense to me, I didn't understand the film or why people loved it so damn much.

This film doesn't seem to fare much better. I'll go ahead and quote Roger Ebert here: " If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."

Ouch. It's not getting sterling reviews yet, but you can't always trust the tomato-meter, I've found. Though I doubt I'll like it, I'll probably see it for this:

and I'm sure millions of other people will spend their money on it. Expect this to blow away the competition this week, as it racks in a lot of cash.

I realize I didn't give a plot synopsis like I usually do: Alien robots, that inexplicably have rubber tires as part of them, fight each other on earth, and sometimes disguise as vehicles. Explosions ensue. Shia Lebouf cracks jokes, Megan Fox sweats and wears sexy lip-gloss.

Excitement buzz: Me: 5/10, Everybody else: 9/10

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A Summary Of Some Spectacularly Bad Ideas

on Tuesday, June 23, 2009   0 comments

1. A Sequel to "Taken"
Taken was a good film. It wasn't a great film, but it was a thoroughly entertaining action flick, bolstered to a slightly higher level by having Liam Neeson star, one of the few actors who could ever bring The Phantom Menace any sort of respect. But it was a one-shot movie. Simple plot, relatively uncomplicated characters, and Liam Neeson killing a lot of people. Awesome, I'll see it.

But has posted that they have greenlit a sequel to the film. I'm sure it could still be good, meaning I'm sure Liam Neeson will still kick a lot of ass, but we've already seen it once, and I'm not just dying to find out what happens to these characters next.

Plus, what will it be called? Taken Again, or if we're going with the Final Destination series here, "The Taken."

"Where's Waldo" in Hollywood?
Funny thing is, that's actually the title to one of the "Waldo" books. But I finally found him, and he's starring in his very own movie. What the hell could this be? Is it actually going to be people looking for Waldo? Will the audiences get to look for him in a gigantic crowd? Will there be funny events going on in the background, like cavemen hitting each other with rocks? HA! What a great movie.

Full House: The Movie
"Full House" was one of my favorite TV shows growing up. The sappy sentiment, the squeeky clean humor, watching Bob Saget act like a saint, all made for great early television. I loved the little musical three note bridge that would play, indicating the sad part was coming on and that professions of love were soon to follow.

But really, it was an absurdly cheesy show. Now John Stamos (Uncle Jesse himself) has said he's been working to get a Full House movie under works. Have mercy. It's not going to star the same cast, which is a shame. Maybe Michelle followed the same troubled path her actresses did, filled with eating disorders and God knows what else? Did Stephanie fall to drugs like Jodi Sweetin did? (How rude. Jodi Sweetin actually kicked the habit, an admirable feet, no doubt). Whatever happened to Nicki and Alex, the youngsters who were supposed to take the role of 'cute baby' once the Olsen twins grew up, but never attained popularity?

Enough, point made. But the show worked because of the cast, who obviously cared about each other. Pretty much everybody helped Jodi Sweetin as she went through rehab for her addiciton to meth, and all of the male leads speak with protective words when people objectify the Olsen twins (hell, they practically grew up under those three as surrogate fathers). And "Full House" was good for it's time. If they made it today with the same tone, it would fail miserably (I cringe at the thought of a modern 'you've got it, dude'), but if they change the tone, it's no longer "Full House." Perhaps it's best we leave that in the early nineties where it belongs. If you don't, well I'm afraid you're in big trouble, mister.

Also, he's talking of having Tracey Morgan play the role of Joey Gladstone. Okay, okay, I'm fine with him being black, but I really don't see that working out. Steve Carell as Danny, I kind of see that.

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Answers To Movie Trivia

on Tuesday, June 23, 2009   0 comments

1. Which early 80s PG blockbuster lead the MPAA to create the PG-13 rating, so as to have a level between PG and R?

Most people got this, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. People thought it was too dark for a PG rating (maybe it was, Indiana Jones smacks Short Round, but shit that kid was annoying, I'd have done it too), but decided it couldn't be R. So Pg-13 was created. I also got a few answers that said Gremlins was one, which I had never heard before now. But I think it is correct.

2. What is the only sequel to win an Academy Award for Best Picture?
The Godfather part II. Most people got this as well.

3. What is the only animated film to be nominated for Best Picture?
Beauty and the Beast. It lost to Silence of the Lambs.

4. What film does Steven Spielberg revere so much that he sits in a dark room and watches it before he works on a new movie?
Lawrence of Arabia. This is the only one nobody knew the answer to. So I guess this taught you one piece of useless trivia.

5. What movie is regarded to be the first talking picture?
The Jazz Singer. It's an oldie, for sure, released in 1927.

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Since When Do Articles Determine Sequels?

on Tuesday, June 23, 2009   0 comments

Remember that movie, the one where a group of kids are about do something, but one of them has this weird vision of a horrific crash, and pleas to the rest of them to leave, because they're all going to die, and they think it's all crazy until the accident does happen, and then they're like, "whoa, you saw it before it happened," but then they all start to die in really bizarre, completely implausible ways, because they never were supposed to survive that initial catastrophe?

Is it:
A. Final Destination
B. Final Destination 2
C. Final Destination 3
D. Legally Blonde

If you answered, A, B, or C, congratulations! You've identified a film series that is literally identical in it's structure and plot, and solely exists to show horrific ways to die. Now, sequels are often retreads of the originals, but they usually have some semblance of a new plot or a new situation. These are carbon copy, cut from the same cloth movies (that suck ass, by the way) and managed to bring in enough cash to generate a fourth movie. The plot? I already wrote it, it's up at the top. The 'horrific accident' this time takes place at a flipping Nascar race (apparently the creators thought they weren't hitting the redneck demographic strongly enough), where a group of teens who are way too good looking to be watching Nascar barely escape a car crash that, evidently, levels the entire stadium. Death starts picking them off one by one, yada yada yada, the end. Here's the trailer:

Wait, wait, wait. Did you catch that title? The Final Destination? That's all it takes to designate a sequel now? An article? Evidently the first two follow-ups weren't good enough to get such a definite article in the word 'the.' It must have borrowed the 'the' from Fast and Furious (A series which already has the shittiest sequel titles known to man), which dropped its article to show everybody it was a brand new movie. God, let's hope this isn't the start of a titling trend. Iron Man 2 gets renamed The Iron Man. I'll stick with my numbers, thanks. Call me old fashioned.

And did you notice the part of the trailer that said, "Death...Saved the best..." when I first saw this, and realized what it was, I mumbled under my breath "please be 'for last,'" over and over again. Nope. "Death...Saved the best...For 3D."

Oh shit. I was hoping this series could go the way all it's character's do, but they've completely left it open for a sequel, which they'll make. And 3D? Alright, that's the one thing this movie has going for it. Maybe. But I'm still pissed they teased the possibility of me never having to watch one of those movies again just to reveal they'll be making the blood and body parts fly OUT OF THE SCREEN this time.

Awesome. Can't wait. I still maintain that, gramatically, this should be the last movie. Since it's 'The' Final Destination, it means there can't be another.



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New Pictures Confirm: Tim Burton's Mind Is The Most Horrifying Place Known To Man

on Monday, June 22, 2009   0 comments

Perhaps I was being a bit presumptuous, using the Cartesian argument that the mental realm is, in fact, a place, but let's just pretend it's true. Now imagine the part owned by Tim Burton. I'm sorry, I didn't mean to scare you shitless. But can you possibly think of a more horrifying place? The man is such a mixture of genius and madness I can hardly fathom the frightening beasts that storm around that twisted, brilliant imagination. Edward Scissorhands, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Sweeney Todd are all great examples of just how differently this man thinks. It should also tell you something when his number one go to actor is Johnny Depp, another man whose mental realm would make my head explode like those dudes at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark, seeing something so majestic and terrifying at once.

Next up for Tim Burton (Depp included, of course), is the reimagining of Lewis Carroll's classic Alice in Wonderland. Some photos have been floating the net, showing off some major characters. Warning, some people may find these images disturbing.

Are you okay? Did you just have a mild stroke of fear? I understand. Helena Bonham Carter looks like a bobbing-head doll that isn't afraid to split you from stem to sturnam. She plays the Queen of Hearts, and is quoted to have "a moat filled with bobbing noggins," which I assume is Britain-talk for "this bitch cuts off heads and then swims in a pool with them floating around her."

Meanwhile, I'm fairly certain Johnny Depp's Mad Hatter (yes, that's him on the left) could reach out and stab through this computer screen, all the while wearing that spine-chilling, gap toothed smile. A lot of people have been clamoring for, and I quote, "Johnny Depp to play the Riddler!" in the next Batman film online. I don't think this is such a great idea, but what I'm suddenly keen to is having him play the Mad Hatter, who is an actual Batman villain, one who happens to be an Alice in Wonderland obsessed psychopath. Just have him dress like that and recite The Walrus and the Carpenter while walking down the street shooting people. And you thought that guy who played the clown was scary.

Anne Hathaways on the right, and I ask you, how is it she still looks beautiful when made ghostly white? You must be relieved, thinking that that's the end of the terrifying pictures-wrong.

Perhaps that wasn't scary enough, you probably couldn't make out exactly what was going on. It's Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, and to get a clearer pictures, that's them on the left. I'm sorry, I forgot in the story the eerie twins turn into The Blob and eat Alice for dinner and the Cheshire cat for desert. In Tim Burton's mind, they do.

This movie is bound to be great. It's obviously full of the bizarre, which Burton has shown he can do very well. It's playing a sort of Hook trick, where Alice is a little older and has forgotten she visited Wonderland once before. Well she's about to go back, and live in Tim Burton's dream.

Which, for normal non-creative geniuses, gives me nightmares.

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Bullock Takes The Box Office

on Monday, June 22, 2009   0 comments

The weekend numbers are in, and The Hangover was finally knocked out of the number one spot by newcomer romantic comedy The Proposal starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. The film pulled in a cool 34 million, Sandra Bullocks largest opening weekend ever. This surprised me, considering Speed was such a big hit (turns out it only had a 14 million opening, but went on to collect 121 million in the U.S. and almost 300 million worldwide). But apparently audiences wanted the formulaic romantic comedy to appease their need for neat, tidy love affairs.

The Hangover and Up still fought to stay in the top three, respectively earning 26.9 and 21.3 million. Leaving the other 'big' movie opening this weekend, Year One starring Jack Black and Michael Cera, to fizzle in fourth place with 20.2 million. It has a ways to go to reach it's budget of approximately 60 million, and reviews have been poor and I doubt word-of-mouth is any better. I will reserve my judgment until I see it, but it was a movie I knew would sink or soar. Apparently it sinks, with too many juvenile poop jokes and standard Jack Black humor (I like poop jokes, but only intelligent poop jokes).

The Taking of Pelham 123 took fifth at 11.3 million in its second week, and the joke that is Imagine That had a paltry 3.1 million. Sad faces for Eddie Murphy.

Expect a much higher number next week, when Michael Bay (who decided he wants to stop filming action movies) gives us robots blowing shit up and Megan Fox... well, doing what she does best. Looking hot.

Funny fact: Sandra Bullock's best reviewed film? Speed. Her worst? Speed 2. I'm choking on irony.

Funny Question: How many of you were going to fault me for putting up a poster for the wrong 'Propsal' movie? Be honest, now.

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The Proposal Is Unsurprisingly Unsurprising, But It's A Good Date Movie

on Saturday, June 20, 2009   0 comments

Ah, the romantic comedy. Formulaic and predictable to the end. The only things that separates the good from the bad are the humor and the chemistry between the two leads. You'll usually be able to map out the plot before the movie gets going. In How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (my favorite chick flick), you knew their lies would be revealed in front of everybody at that huge party, and you know in The Proposal that it's going to fall through at the alter. Fortunately you also know they'll come to love each other, and it will get all lovey dovey and end neatly and happily. The exception to this was The Break Up, which went for something they thought must be more 'realistic,' and of course pissed off everybody who saw it. Nobody wants to see a romantic comedy end sadly.

So don't worry, The Proposal doesn't repeat that transgression. In the span of three days, Margaret (Sandra Bullock) and Andrew (Ryan Reynolds) go from hating each other to falling helplessly in love.

The premise: Margaret is a successful, but cold-hearted, book editor from Canada who has a VISA application pending. She breaks the rules and leaves the country to appease a client, which means her application is denied. She has to leave the country for at least one year, and won't be able to work at the job she's devoted her life to (and would be replaced by the guy she just fired). Andrew is her 'executive assistant,' a young man who has dreams of working in literature and sees this as his best path. Margaret treats Andrew (and the rest of the office) like slaves, such that they all send out mass text messages warning to each other when she's walking into the room. So when she gets the news of her deportation, she blackmails Andrew into marrying her so she can stay, with the promise of making him an editor. This is a highly questionable move, so the Office of Immigration informs them that they must pass a rather rigorous test, and end up having to fly out to Andrew's small hometown in Alaska to spend time with his family, and inform them of the engagement.

Pretty straight up formula, right? You're going to get a lot of 'big city girl can't handle small towns and nature but comes to love it' and 'warm hearted family melts ice of frigid bitch.' You find out Margaret's past holds a tragedy that likely affected her to become the person she did. In a somewhat funny gag, Margaret assumes Andrew is dirt poor only to learn that his family pretty much owns this small town and has built a small villa on the Alaskan coast. But daddy Paxton doesn't approve of his son leaving to seek what he sees a foolish dream, and wants him to come home to 'run the empire.' They don't see eye to eye, to say the least. It's actually one of the more compelling subplots, but it never gets to where it should, and ends far too abruptly and neatly.

The cast is pretty solid. Sandra Bullock, halfway through her fifth decade, is getting a little cougar-ish to be playing this sort of romantic role, especially across from 12 years younger (looks 20) Ryan Reynolds. But all things considered, she pulls it off really well. There's a scene when she's all but naked, covering up using only her hands, and I'd be lying if I said she didn't look pretty damn good. Her face is just barely starting to show the trying-to-stay-young look, with botox and make-up and all that jazz, but she might have a few more romances like this in her. She allows Margaret's soft side to come on gradually, and it's actually pretty sweet to see how she changes.

Betty White plays the ninety year old grandmother. She's a treat to watch, though they missed a lot of opportunities with her. She's on screen a lot, though I thought they could have given her some more comedic lines to work with. There's an odd scene, where Margaret walks up on her in the woods practicing a Native American ritual. It's as weird as it sounds, she's in a full pheonix costume, dancing around a fire, and playing Indian drums on a boom box. It's explained later that she has some Native American heritage in her, but I certainly could have done without it. The gag really wasn't that funny, until Sandra Bullock started rapping "From the windows..." to the drums when she didn't know the chant.

But the real star here is Ryan Reynolds. He really plays comedy well, and is quickly become the sultan of sarcasm. His delivery of lines is spot on, and he can make the unfunny funny with inflection and facial expression. He manages the more serious scenes, with his father and with Margaret, very well also. He seems to be on the rise, and I'd be glad to see him more. Most of the funniest lines come from him.

There are some jokes that fail, and only get light chuckles, but it's funny enough to appease. It drags a little long, and the jokes get more scarce towards the end. But the real hurter in this romantic comedy is the romance. It was pretty underdeveloped and simple, even by romantic comedy standards. The two leads spend remarkably few scenes together, and when they are it's usually for a joke, like running into each other naked or teasing each others idiosyncrasies. Margaret spends a lot of time with the family, and she seems to fall more in love with that than with Andrew. But we definitely see her fall more than he does, so it just seemed a little sudden when he decides to, you guessed it, chase her to the airport (don't worry, it's not totally cliche). But after three short days, they decide they've fallen for each other, impassioned speech and all.

I would like to see a movie like this, where two people have to lie in some situation, that doesn't result in them ending up together. What? I thought you said you wanted romantic comedies to end well? I did, so don't make it a romantic comedy, just make it a comedy. I think there's a lot of humorous aspect to the idea of the two liars never falling for each other that gets lost when they do. They don't have to hate each other throughout, maybe they grow to become friends. If you have to have romance, let the 'Andrew' of the story fall back in love with his old ex-flame (played here by Malin Akerman), and have him explain to her why he had to lie at the end. But keep the couple in the facade as the liars that they are, and work the hijinks from that angle. I don't know, could be fun.

Rating: If you're a guy on a date: 7/10, if you're a girl: 7.8/10, if you're a guy alone or with other guys: 6.5/10 (but you'll pretend you didn't like it).

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Week Late Review: The Taking of Pelham 123

on Friday, June 19, 2009   2 comments

I'm sorry, I meant to write this review sooner, but I just got out of the hospital after suffering from seizures induced by watching this movie.

The setup of The Taking of Pelham 123 is strong enough. A group of terrorists, lead by a man named 'Ryder' (John Travolta) take over New York subway train Pelham 123 right in the middle of a dead zone. They detach all but one compartment, and let those lucky bastards jump ship, while they keep the twenty or so remaining passengers as hostages. The demand is ten million dollars, to be delivered in precisely one hour, or his trigger finger is going to start getting twitchy, while the barrel is likely aimed at a hostage's head. Ryder refuses to talk to anybody but MTA Transporter Walter Garber (Denzel Washington), who has been recently demoted and found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ryder takes a liking to Garber, who is an everyman with a little secret hovering over his demotion, all the while Garber gets a spot-on assessment of the type of person Ryder is (evidently only Wall Street people use the term 'commodities'). As the deadline gets closer and closer, Ryder continues to vent his disgust with New York City, its infrastructure and the type of people who run it, particularly lashing out on the mayor (played rather well by James Gandolfini). Once the deadline hits, Ryder wants Garber and Garber alone to deliver the money. The average-Joe just turned G.I., and gets put right in the middle of the whole thing.

The film suffers from a terrible bit of identity dissociation disorder. It can't decide if it wants to be an action flick or a smart, hostage drama. I'll get to the directing later, but scenes that should be rather calm were shot as if the camera man had Parkison's and had his finger stuck on the zoom button. Conversations between Garber and Ryder, via the radio on the train, are never shot with a still frame. It's always rotating, encircling them in order to increase the drama, but really just take away from it (and made me so motion sick I had to take a Dramamine). The plot is solid, and the tension is high, no doubt. But the film seems to suffer from there.

Denzel Washington plays the part of 'everyday man turned hero' as well as he always does, though Garber was perhaps too calm from the get-go. But after that it holds up fine. He's horribly one-dimensional, though, and once the film is over I'm not sure how he has changed or what the experience has done for him. We know he's accused of taking a bribe, and he gets a brief scene talking to his wife on the phone, but other than that he's kind of a stranger. And mentioning that phone, I think that might be one problem with the movie. Most of the dialogue is between two people on the phone or radio, which is really hard to pull off for two hours. Colin Farrel did in Phone Booth surprisingly well, but that movie did a great job of raising the stakes and keeping everything tense. In Pelham the stakes are high, but constant throughout, and phone conversations get a little redundant.

I did like James Gandolfini's mayor. The film makes a point that he's not running for reelection, which apparently allows him to finally make good decisions and not care about talking to the press. When the film could have gone for another asshole politician, they actually gave us a pretty decent guy (there's a strange likeness between him and Giuliani as well. Maybe it's just because they're both bald). At first he's a little slow to respond, thinking it's just a dumb crook with a gun, but once he realizes the stakes of the situation, he's invested and caring and interested in saving lines. At one point Ryder offers to trade him for every hostage he had, and it looks like he might take the deal, were he not told by the hostage negotiator (John Turturro) that it would be a bad idea (that's fine, Ryder wouldn't have done it anyway). I did think it was interesting that he was willing to pay them off, and I'm kind of glad I didn't hear him say, "We don't negotiate with terrorists."

One of the biggest flaws in the movie is in the character of Ryder, and the actor portraying him. John Travolta usually does a decent job of taking the cartoon-like villain and making it work, which he does in this film, occasionally. But he also says "mother fucker" after every... single... line... and he says it in the exact...same...way. It's always the same, in pitch, tonality, even how long it takes. It's like they recorded him saying it once and then played it back throughout the movie. (There's a lot of emphasis on the Fuh sound. Like "Mother FUH-ker"). The thing about Ryder, and Travolta playing him, is that they can never decide if they want him to be a one-dimensional lunatic that kills whenever he's angry (and he will, don't test h-, whoops, they did) or a layered and complex, nihilistic bad guy that's smart, but unafraid to die. He goes from being relatively interesting, talking to Garber about life and even his Catholic faith, back to saying "mother FUH-ker" sporadically throughout, so ultimately he fails at both. Not only this, but when it boils down, his scheme is borderline retarded. It also seems way too easy to catch him. This is implied to be part of his unafraid-of-death, nihilistic approach to life, especially since he doesn't seem upset by his failure at all, but it also makes you wonder: what was the point of the whole damn thing?

So Ryder didn't quite work for me, but what really failed was the direction by Tony Scott. I mentioned some of this earlier, the constant camera motion, the quick zoom-stop-quick zoom-stop tactic employed at inappropriate times. He also seemed to film in stop-motion, like he was doing some sort of claymation tactic, that just made the screen blurry and choppy, and resulted in those seizures I mentioned up top. This is one of the worst directed films I think I've ever seen, so much that I actually noticed it during the movie, and that it took me out of the film. Usually I don't think about it all that much while watching, but this was almost all that weighed on my mind as I ralphed into the little air-sick vomit bags they put in every seat of the theater.

There's also a stretch in the film where a group of cops are rushing the money across New York, and apparently have to crash into anything and everything they can. The only purpose for this I can surmise is that they wanted to show some action in the trailer, so they had motorcycles flipping over parked cars and trucks slamming into each other. Every crash you see in the trailer (literally) occurs in a quick cut scene whose sole purpose was to show that very collision. It was incredibly stupid, and I'd bet not cheap, leaving me to wonder why they thought it was a good idea. This, along with other logical failures, really take away from the film.

So with the action movie tactics in what shouldn't be portrayed as an action movie, and John Travolta's disjointed attempt at Ryder, I'd have to say this is one of the worst films I've seen this summer. It's not all bad, you might want to rent it when it comes out, but save your hard earned money for something else at the mulitplex.


Reed's Rankings Explanation:
9-10: Godly, genre defining, timeless
8-8.9: Great movie, definitely see it in theaters, buy it when it comes out
7-7.9: Your average movie. It succeeds at what it attempts. You won't begrudge seeing it.
6-6.9: Has it's moments. Might fails at it's premise slightly. Possibly be worth a rent
5-5.9: Only slightly entertaining. Maybe watch if you don't have to pay for it, and there's nothing else on.
4-4.9: Not entertaining, probably not worth your time, but might have a redeeming factor or two.
3-3.9: Not worth the box cover it's in.
2-2.9: Not worth the air required for the actors to breath and speak their lines.
1-1.9: I've never ranked a movie lower than a 1.3, I don't think. You should grind a cactus before watching this.
0-.9: If I ever rank a movie this low, the Apocalypse is here. I'm too forgiving of movies for this score.

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Awwwwwwwwwwwwwwww... Part II

on Friday, June 19, 2009   0 comments

Wait, what was that about? All I saw was Rachel McAdams being pretty and romantic. Do I need another reason to see this movie? Wait, time travel? This movie is melding my romantic instincts and my affinity for science fiction into one movie, I think it might implode. It's like Star Trek meets The Notebook.

This film was based on a novel of the same name, and is highly reminiscent of the short-lived TV show Journeyman (which likely used the same novel for inspiration). I was actually really into the show and was pretty upset when it got canceled, I'm sure largely as a consequence to the Great Writer's Strike '08. So while this looks like a standard romance in tone, I bet it has a unique enough storyline to stand out a little bit.

Did I mention Rachel McAdams was in it?

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on Friday, June 19, 2009   0 comments

Damn, does that look sappy. But I'll watch Jennifer Aniston do sappy any day, and Aaron Eckhart has done a lot of great stuff. Is this the next Notebook, the romance film that girls drag their boyfriends to, where they go frowning, then end up liking it, and then tell their friends, "Dude, I actually liked it," then they get teased, until all of them are dragged to see it, and pretty much they secretly sob in each other's arms without telling their girlfriends they liked it? Could it be?

Maybe not, but if Jennifer Aniston's in it, I'm there. A perk of a girlfriend I'd never thought of before: seeing chick flicks shamelessly.

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I'm Angry, Here's Why

on Friday, June 19, 2009   0 comments

Year One is released today, and right now it's gotten pretty negative reviews. People are calling it juvenile, gross, and offensive. I can't wait to see it.

Negative reviews are fine, especially for this kind of comedy. Dumb and Dumber might be my favorite comedy of all time, but it sits at a less than impressive 62% on Rottentomatoes. That's not terrible, but believe me, I've laughed at comedies with lower rankings. I usually agree with critics, but there are moments (particular with the 'dumb comedies') that we occasionally split paths. What makes a dumb comedy funny requires it to be heavy on the funny, lighter on the dumb. In other words, you have to smart to make a dumb comedy work. Ironic, right?

So I can accept people giving Year One bad reviews based on that premise, that it's just not a smart comedy. Fine, maybe I won't laugh, maybe I'll crack up because the 12 year old in me takes over, but I can usually see their point. But I read a review in the paper today that spent a paragraph and a half complaining about, and faulting the movie for, historical innaccuracies. I'm sorry, were they expecting this movie to follow their college history text book? I could not believe this imbecile, whining about the timeline of the movie. Not only the historical timeline, the biblical timeline. He complained about the fact that the characters meet Adam, Cain, and Abel, but then also Abraham, and travel to Sodom, which are separated by thousands of years in the holy text. It seems to me this critic was taking things a little too seriously, pointing out historical accuracies in a movie that has Jack Black in. I'm sorry, I didn't realize he and Harold Ramis had a PhD in history, they should have known better.

What kind of shit-for-brains critic gets mad at the ludicrous historical set-up being created here? I guess I forgot Monty Python's Holy Grail was based on actual scrolls found after the crusades. Seems to me that, considering how mad this critic was that the characters span a thousand biblical years, he was a little upset at the little pokes at Christianity this movie seems to make. Once I heard Cain telling Abel, "You are called Suck,' I stopped reading Genesis to find out what happened in this movie. Apparently this guy held on a little too strong, hoping we'd have some sort of spiritual redemption and this movie would reaffirm his faith. Jack Black, the spiritual guide. There's a thought for you.

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2012 Is Trying to Dethrone 'Up' As Greatest CGI Film Of The Year

on Thursday, June 18, 2009   3 comments

The trailer for the disaster movie 2012 was released today, as seen here:

Oh damn. That looks good. And by good, I mean a room full of guys sat together and thought, "let's think of cool things for a disaster movie."
1. An Aircraft Carrier crushes the White House in a tidal wave.
2. Meteor Showers in very isolated places.
3. The statue of Jesus collapsing.
4. A land mass sliding into the sea.
5. Earthquakes.

You have to look twice, but this actually is a live action film, and not a cartoon as the CGI laden trailer implies.

But the special effects are damn impressive, and Rolan Emmerich has made some decent disaster flicks. Though I hope he doesn't repeat his mistakes in The Day After Tomorrow, when the writers sat down and made a similar list as the one above, only they made it as weather phenomena, but then they decided to have that be in only the very beginning of the movie. The rest was just an attempt at drama. Guess what? I don't want to watch these movies for drama. I want to pretend that the Vatican City just crumbled by exploiting awesome special effects. Yeah, sure, throw in some semblance of a plot that requires actors to do some work, that's fine, but let's keep those action shots pumping throughout the whole movie. As soon as I get bored watching these people trying to make this a serious character piece, I better see Big Ben collapse into the river Thames.

Though I actually do like this cast. John Cusack is of the best of the B+ actors, and I pretty much like Oliver Platt in whatever roll he's in (starting with his hilarious character in Lake Placid). So I expect great things from this almost-animated feature that looks big, loud, impressive, and fantastically generic.

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Reed's Meditations: On The Movie Audience, Its Importance

on Tuesday, June 16, 2009   3 comments

I left The Hangover and I realized something of great importance: I love a good audience. I saw the movie in a full theater that seats hundreds. We had nestled into our gigantic comfy seats, bought our large popcorn and drink for 13 bucks, and grew silent as the lights dimmed, all in anticipation of the film to come. We were there for a common purpose; we wanted to see a movie that we hoped would make us laugh. And laugh we did. For those two hours the hundreds of us shared a common bond through a common experience. There were some jokes that left us silent, and ones that brought out only light chuckles, but in general we enjoyed ourselves immensely, as a whole. I walked out of the theater thinking about that brief instance of oneness, and complimented them all in my thoughts as they dispersed.

Flashback a year to the midnight premier of The Dark Knight. It was receiving fantastic early reviews, and was one of the most hotly anticipated movies of the summer. We could hardly wait to see what the hype over the Heath Ledger's Joker was all about. I was in a full Joker outfit, actually, with make-up, a green wig, and plastic scars included. My best friend was in a completely legit Batman suit. He even ordered gloves and a cowl, the latter which was highly important. The Batman masks that come with the costumes are always cheap paper thin floppy eared pieces of garbage. But this was a latex work of art, suitable of the Caped Crusader himself. And we weren't the only ones. There was a handful of us at the theater, and nobody mocked us for looking ridiculous. I stood in line alone for fifteen minutes, dressed like a psychopathic clown, and chatted up a regular clothed fan about our excitement of the movie. He complimented the costume, asked about how I made it. It didn't matter that I was a twenty-year old going gaga over a comic-book movie, because he was too. The whole crowd was. We were there, once again, for the common purpose.

In the theater, the film turned to black and then the blue smoke started swirling, completely soundless. I could literally feel the crowd edge up in their seat, in absolute silent reverence. The quiet from the film and from the audience permeated the room. Nobody breathed, nobody moved, the popcorn crunches had been put to a pause. I realized it then, perhaps for the first time. The magic of the movie-going audience. We were silent and scared when the tension was high, wide-eyed at the action scenes, and sad at Rachel's surprising death. We were one.

I contrast this with the second time I saw the movie. It was an afternoon, as I recall, and I walked out with a completely different impression. The audience in that theater was disrespectful to the art; they chatted and texted throughout the film, but worse, they completely ruined the tone. When the Joker laughed, or when he enjoyed himself making up a story about how he got those scars, the audience laughed with him, finding humor in something that's supposed to be funny only to him. To everyone else, it's a horrifying lunacy. But they must have missed that. They laughed when he cut a face open, they laughed when he shot the bus driver, they took me out of the movie and sucked the atmosphere out the theater.

When I saw The Curious Case of Benjamen Button, once more in a jam packed gigantitron of a theater, a baby in the front row began to cry. I looked down, distracted, and searched for the person who was getting up and excusing his or herself so as to calm the child. No such person moved. For minutes it went on, as the entire theater, in unison, started to shift and groan. Finally, somebody yelled, "Take the baby outside!" Suddenly a woman in the first row stood up, turned around and yelled, "Fuck off!" before being escorted out by the usher that me and my comrade-in-movie-going fetched minutes before. An entire section of a movie was ruined for an entire audience because the woman didn't leave.

It's an intangible I can't quite realize, but there's something great about being in a good audience. And believe me, it makes a huge difference. Emotions are contagious. If an audience laughs, it grows exponentially, and every individual laughs harder; thus making the experience all the more worthwhile. I did a few musicals in high school, and it was interesting what you could gauge from an audience, and how it affected the performance. The same is true for movie viewership.

I thought for a while that the advent of the internet would spawn a craze that allowed you to, on the day the film was released, pay to digitally download the movie (legally) and watch it on your computer. I now realize that this day won't come. Why is it that millions of people pay for tickets to the theater? It's certainly not the overpriced snacks. It's the atmosphere of the movie theater, the combination of watching it on a big screen with loud sound and surrounded by hundreds of other viewers.

So here's to you, internet reader. Let us hope that someday we cross paths in a movie theater somewhere, sit together and enjoy our company as a cohesive whole, and leave the theater grateful for having been there.

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