Archive for March, 2008

27
Mar
08

Movie News and Views Mar. 26, 2008

Indy 4 poster

Standard Disclaimer:

All opening dates are not approximate. Watch trailers at your own risk.

Other than that, check out the movie posters! Enjoy!

“Pathology” – A group of med students create the perfect crime. Hey, wasn’t that similar to the plot of “Mindhunters?” Stars Alyssa Milano. Opening April 18, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=986&item=3

“Deal” – Brett Harrison is hot at cards, and Burt Reynolds is a retired gambler who takes him under his wing. Oh yeah, and Harrison gets to make out with Shannon Elizabeth. Opening April 25, 2008. View the trailer at: http://movies.aol.com//movie/deal/30762/video/trailer-no-1/2087550

“Deception” – Formerly “The Tourist,” (what’s up with these name changes?) this movie follows young exec Ewan McGregor as he joins a sex club called The List. When a woman disappears and a $20 million theft occurs, things get complicated. Also stars Hugh Jackman. Opening April 25, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=666&item=1

“Then She Found Me” – Helen Hunt’s directorial debut about a woman abandoned by her husband (Matthew Broderick) and entering a midlife crisis. When her long-lost birth mother (Bette Midler) reappears trying to reconcile… you get the drift. Opening April 25, 2008. View the trailer at: http://movies.aol.com/movie/then-she-found-me/25660/video/then-she-found-me-trailer-no-1/2087388

“The Foot Fist Way” – A martial arts instructor catches his wife cheating and goes on a downward spiral until he finds redemption. Supposedly, this movie was left for Adam McKay and Will Ferrell to watch and they watched it 10 times in a row before buying it. Opening May 30, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/media.php?id=1179&place=trailer

“Meet Dave” – Formerly “Starship Dave,” Eddie Murphy is a giant spaceship inhabited by miniature aliens, the commander of which is Eddie Murphy. Uh, yeah. Opening May 30, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=866&item=0

“The Incredible Hulk” – Dr. David Bruce Banner / Hulk is back, this time played by Ed Norton. Complications arise when he’s taken on by Abomination, a creature that matches his size and strength. Reportedly, their fight scene is 26 minutes long. Coming June 13, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=551&item=1

“Wall*E” – A lonely robot left on a planet finally gets a friend after 700 years, only for her to be taken away. Pixar’s latest venture. The trailer is great! Opening June 27, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.empireonline.com/video/walle/

“Tropic Thunder” – Take an action star (Ben Stiller), a comedian (Jack Black), and an award-winning Australian actor who undergoes surgery to appear “black” (Robert Downey, Jr.) and have them make a war movie by dropping them in the middle of a REAL war. The trailer is hilarious. Opening August 15, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=798&item=1

“Righteous Kill” – Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino are two cops on the trail of a serial killer. Will there be one-liners involved? Opening September 12, 2008. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=954&item=1

“Madagascar: The Crate Escape” – Those crazy New York Zoo animals try leaving the island, only to end up in Africa. They may spend some time kissing the rains… Opens November 7, 2008. View the trailer at: http://dreamworksfansite.com/News/AnimationNews//Madagascar-2-Trailer/

“Death Defying Acts” – Guy Pearce is Harry Houdini, and Catherine Zeta-Jones is the fake psychic he falls for. Coming soon. View the trailer at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=loXaccfB4cw

“Train” – A remake of the 80’s slasher film called “Terror Train,” this stars Thora Birch in the place of Jamie Lee Curtis. Need I say more? Coming soon. View the trailer at: http://www.worstpreviews.com/trailer.php?id=1181&item=0

27
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: Once

Once poster

Sing with me now!

 

Starring Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova. Written and Directed by John Carney.

 

The movie is literally about the music.

 

Set in Ireland, Guy (Hansard) works for his father fixing Hoover vacuum cleaners. His last relationship ended for reasons unknown, and that she lives somewhere in London. During lunch and at nighttime he performs songs on the corner of a busy street to keep his artistry going.

 

Girl (Irglova) does varied work (she tells him one day that she got a job cleaning a house). She lives with her mother and her two-year-old daughter. Her husband is still in Russia, and things aren’t working out between them. She demonstrates to Guy that she can play piano as well as sing.

 

Outside of this, there really isn’t too much story involved in this movie. And as much as I really wanted more of one, it would have possibly detracted from what the movie is: a showcase of two incredibly talented artists. Yes, they both do a good job a stringing a small story around two people who need each other for the time they’re allotted, but that’s not really the reason one sees this film.

 

The music. It’s all about the music. From his songs (“Say It To Me Now,” “Broken Hearted Hoover Fixer Sucker Guy”) to her songs (“If You Want Me,” “The Hill”) to their collaborations (“When Your Mind’s Made Up,” and the hit “Falling Slowly”) I was incredibly impressed with the songs and how well both worked together.

 

And that’s really what the film is about. If you’re a fan of music, as well as indie films, you need to check this one out. Of  note their Academy Award-winning song, “Falling Slowly,” is available as a free download on the DVD (PC DVD-ROM).

 

I’ll put this in my collection, somewhere around “Almost Famous.”

 

My grade: B

25
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: American Gangster

American Gangster

Formerly titled, “Tru Blu,” “Superfly,” and “Gangsta.” (joking)

 

Starring Denzel Washington, Russell Crowe, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Josh Brolin, and Ted Levine. Directed by Ridley Scott.

 

NOTE: This review is based on the extended, unrated version.

 

Ridley got his paycheck.

 

Straying from the usual “epics” Scott is known for (“Blade Runner,” “Alien,” “Gladiator,” “Kingdom of Heaven”) he tackles the “real life” story of Frank Lucas, a black man with precision and professionalism, along with cutthroat tactics, that kept his empire in-family as he single-handedly controlled heroin in New York during the late 60’s / early 70’s. Trying to figure out how heroin was becoming the “new” drug is Detective Richie Roberts, the most honest cop since Serpico; he became “vilified” after he turned in $1 million found in the back of a car. What follows is the usual “rise and fall” of a druglord and a cop’s redemption.

 

I liked this movie, but didn’t love it. The acting was good, the story was interesting, the characters were believable, and kudos to Ridley Scott for being a stickler for even minute detail, but… I wasn’t a big fan. And maybe it’s just me. I’ve watched about every other movie in the “drug” genre; “Carlito’s Way,” “Scarface,” “Blow,” “Traffic,” etc. It’s been done to death for me. But I digress.

 

The message that comes from this movie is two-handed. On one hand, it’s the fact that a black American (or African-American) has the business smarts, nay entrepreneurship, to create an empire the likes of which no one believed, or wanted to believe. It’s an example of the “American Spirit;” the ability to accomplish something when others scoff at the idea.

 

The message from the other hand is the consequences of actions made. E.g., Lucas hires his immediate family to keep it all “in-house.” The consequences: they all end up in prison. He builds up the largest heroin empire New York has seen. The consequences: once he gets out of prison (after 15 years) he has to live in what’s left of the world that he decimated to create his empire.

 

All in all, an enjoyable movie. Interestingly enough, the real Frank Lucas and Richie Roberts served as consultants on the film. Feel free to Wiki search Frank Lucas and see how different the facts from the film are (hence the “inspired by a true story” label on the poster/DVD). Ridley and the screenwriters did take a few liberties (as do all Hollywood movies) but this is a movie, not a documentary (and Scott took less liberties with Frank Lucas as compared to Oliver Stone and “The Doors.”)

 

My grade: B

25
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: Southland Tales

Southland Tales

This is the way cinema ends…

Starring Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Mandy Moore, Justin Timberlake, Nora Dunn, Bai Ling, Cheri Oteri, Wallace Shawn, and even Christopher Lambert. Written and Directed by Richard Kelly.

To begin I’m gonna say that I liked this movie but many of you probably won’t. I’ll see if I can make the story coherent:

In the year 2005, Texas gets nuked. Marshall Law is enacted and everyone is put under the eye of USIDent, the right wing’s “Big Brother.” The left wing has now become the Neo-Marxists, and they have their website called USIDeath. Both sides are fighting over the upcoming election and voting on something called Prop 69, which involves more scrutiny of public lives (I think). The year at present is 2008, and there are days before the election and vote. These are the last of them…

Still with me? Good.

Boxer Santaros (Johnson) walks out of the desert and into the life of porn star Krysta Now (Gellar). He has amnesia and tries putting together what had happened since he left the desert. Krysta is keeping him under wraps with exception to the fact that she filmed them getting it on and they’re working on a screenplay called, “The Power,” which incidentally is like a Book of Revelation, telling everyone how this is all going to end.

But wait, there’s more.

Enter Roland Taverner (Scott), a cop who has just returned from the Iraq War (in a parallel reality, I guess some things are bound to happen). His “twin” brother Ronald takes his place as a cop, with Roland being held hostage. Problem is that Ronald has amnesia as well and is sent to teach Santaros to be a cop. And things go haywire…

Almost done.

And there’s Pilot Abilene (Timberlake). He’s back from the Iraq War as well, except he’s addicted to a substance called Fluid Karma. Fluid Karma was supposedly tested on the soldiers and gave them a greater degree of telepathy, but caused problems of which addiction was the least of concerns. Abilene is a friend of Taverner, as well as the narrator of the story.

And there’s more, but I’m not going to ruin it…

Yes, this movie is a mess. I just viewed the DVD version (which I’m told is 30 minutes shorter than the Cannes release) and the reason that I enjoyed it: ambition. Critic Roger Ebert made the point that this film has no plot, and I can’t deny that fact. This film is a journey into the last days of mankind in Southern California in an alternate 2008. And yes, you have to be “on the boat” in order to enjoy the movie.

Richard Kelly, who previously pulled-off “Donnie Darko,” took political satire, parody, the culture of SoCal, and the Book of Revelations, put it all into a gigantic blender, and this is the result. For what it’s worth it could have been better, but those of you who cry “Originality, please!” after you’ve watched the millionth summer blockbuster and don’t bother watching this, shame on you.

And as with any indie movie, the “cameo” appearances in this one are no exception. There’s Curtis Armstrong (Booger from the “Nerds” movies), Zelda Rubinstein (the psychic from “Poltergeist”), Will Sasso, Amy Poehler, Jon Lovitz, Jeneane Garofalo, and even Christopher Lambert as a guy dealing weapons out of an ice cream truck. Oh yeah, and Kevin Smith whose appearance in any film (outside of his own) guarantees that the film will not do well (anybody see “Catch and Release?”)

Should you decide to see the film (it’s not for everyone) it will leave an impression on you. There are some deep themes in this movie, and some really great moments. Justin Timberlake having a “dream” sequence/reaction to Fluid Karma in which he’s lip-synching to “All These Things I’ve Done” by the Killers is classic. And there’s Sarah Michelle Gellar singing, “Teen Horniness Is Not a Crime.”

My grade: B- (ambition excluded)

20
Mar
08

Movie News and Views Mar. 19, 2008

I don’t have any trailers at the moment, so chew on these tidbits:

 

         Beau Bridges has been cast in the film adaptation of the “Max Payne” videogame series. Playing the titular character is Mark Wahlberg.

         Dreamworks has redefined CGI technology, now making their animated films in a process called “Ultimate 3D.” One such feature is called “Monsters Vs. Aliens,” and the story goes like this:

 

When California girl Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) is unexpectedly clobbered by a meteor full of outer space gunk on her wedding day, she mysteriously grows to 49-feet-11-inches tall and is instantly labeled a “monster” named Ginormica. The military jumps into action, and she is captured and held in a secret government compound. The world learns that the military has been quietly rounding up other monsters over the years. This ragtag group consists of the brilliant but insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie); the macho half-ape, half-fish The Missing Link (Will Arnett); the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B. (Seth Rogen); and the 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus. Their confinement time is cut short however, when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins storming the country.

As a last resort, under the guidance of General W.R. Monger (Kiefer Sutherland), on a desperate order from The President (Stephen Colbert), the motley crew of Monsters is called into action to combat the aliens and save the world from imminent destruction.

This film is slated for March 27, 2009.

 

         Clint Eastwood is directing a new movie called “Gran Turino.” No one knows what it’s about, yet. Feel free to draw your own conclusions.

         Johnny Depp is playing John Dillinger in a film called, “Public Enemies.”

         While Alec Balwdin, Harrison Ford, and Ben Affleck have all played Jack Ryan, the newest director to “re-introduce” the character will be Sam Raimi (“Evil Dead,” “Spider-Man” movies)

         Comic book character Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) will be cut from the upcoming “Iron Man” movie. Maybe he’ll be in a deleted scene. Also of interest is the fact that Tony Stark (Robert Downey, Jr.) will have an appearance in “The Incredible Hulk.”

         The new Biggie Smalls biopic, “Notorious,” will have Jamal Woolard as B.I.G.

         Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Jay Baruchel, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are all lending their voices to the new Dreamworks film, “How To Train Your Dragon,” based on the novel by Cressida Cowell. The novel is about a Viking kid who picks his dragon from a Dragon Nursery and has problems training it.

         “The future of law enforcement” is about to meet the “future of remake enforcement.” MGM has announced a remake of the Paul Verhoeven sci-fi staple, “RoboCop.”

         Frank Miller is making his directorial debut with the adaptation of the Will Eisner’s “The Spirit.” Production is through Lionsgate Films (they’ll do anything). Cast includes Gabriel Macht, Samuel L. Jackson, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, Jamie King, and Paz Vega.

         Director David Fincher (“Zodiac,” “Fight Club,” “The Game”) has set his sights on another property: “Heavy Metal.” Good luck with that…

         Jason Segel, star, writer, and director of the upcoming “Forgetting Sarah Marshall,” has gotten the assignment of his dreams: making the next Muppet movie. Seriously.

         “Justice League of America” (yes, the cartoon superhero show) has a new title: “Justice League Mortal.” It’s still being directed by George Miller (“Mad Max,” “Happy Feet”)

         After becoming “like brothers” during the filming of “Forbidden Kingdom,” Jackie Chan and Jet Li are proposing to make another movie together. What, no one knows.

         Guillermo del Toro (“Hellboy”) is in talks to direct “The Hobbit.” Supposedly, Peter Jackson will still be producing.

         “Boondock Saints 2: All Saints Day” is full-steam ahead, but going direct-to-DVD. Most everyone is back with the exception of Willem Dafoe.

         Warning to all of you “Narnia” folk: it could end up being just a trilogy. According to a Disney source, unless the second and third “Narnia” film make serious bank, it’s going to be kept a trilogy (instead of all 7). Why? So they can make their “John Carter of Mars” series.

         Forget the fact that “Crank 2” hasn’t even went into production; current talk says that “Crank 3” will be filmed in 3D, using “bullet time.”

 

It’s all crazy. Thanks for reading!

 

-Chas A.

17
Mar
08

Movie Review: Funny Games

Funny Games

“Straw Dogs” it ain’t.

 

Starring Tim Roth, Naomi Watts, Michael Pitt, and Brady Corbet. Written and Directed by Michael Haneke, based on his 1997 original movie of the same name.

 

All that information aside, let me spin this for ya quick:

 

Roth and Watts are the George and Ann Farber (IMDB cannot verify last name), your standard Northeastern couple planning on spending vacation time at their summer home with their son (Devon Gearhart). Trouble ensues when a young “neighbor” “Paul” (Michael Pitt) comes over to help put George’s boat in the water while his friend “Peter” (Brady Corbet) asks Ann for some eggs. When the two get together Ann tries throwing them out of the house. George goes to mediate and slaps Paul, who grabs one of George’s golf clubs and busts George’s left kneecap. Gathering the family in the living room, Paul and Peter inform them that they’re going to play games and that before 12 hours are over, all three will be dead.

 

What sounds good on paper and maybe intriguing in this review wound up failing in execution. While I cannot speak for the original German 1997 film (of which I have been informed that this is a shot-for-shot remake) I can say that this film does not translate to American culture. Two preppy-looking kids who don’t agree on what to call the other one (“Paul” calls “Peter” by the names of Tom and Tubby; “Peter” calls Paul by other names as well) having no clear backstory or motivation as to why they’re doing what they’re doing to their neighbors, whom we don’t have any other information on, either. Yes I understand “senseless” violence and the media propagation of it; I have seen “Natural Born Killers.” The violence in this movie borders on being like the torture porn of an Eli Roth movie, and excuse me for saying “that shit’s been played out.”

 

This IS one of those movies that at the midpoint you ask yourself, “Do I really want to watch the rest of this? Or do I just want to find out how it all ends?” Curiosity got to me and I had to stay until the end to find out what happens. The filmmaker seemed to have wanted a “documentary” ambivalence to events, showing what happens but not providing a feeling for what’s going on either way. Without a “message” (as programmed to our thinking) this comes off as being boring and useless.

 

Stylistically this film tries breaking against any sort of structure, save linear. There are moments where the camera just SITS; where the image stays on screen longer than it needs to be (and for what reason?) Conversely, there are times when the camera follows a character doing something mundane while something integral to the story happens BEHIND it, and we get back to the characters it happened to way after the fact. And if you haven’t heard it already, there is a point in which Watts’ character grabs a gun and blows a hole through Corbet. Pitt takes the gun, hits Watts, then finds a remote control and rewinds to moments before that just so things can go his way. And speaking of Pitt, he does a lot of talking directly to the camera, doing the “breaking the 4th wall” thing. Annoying.

 

What’s criminal of it all are the little hints and tidbits that this movie could’ve been so much better. The kids keeping the family hostage had killed other families and this could’ve been delved into. Watts goes for help and Roth says, “Forgive me.” We don’t know why (except that he’s apparently a bigger wuss than Dustin Hoffman in “Straw Dogs”) The film never runs out of questions, but it doesn’t care enough to give any answers.

 

I will however note the good points of the movie. When Georgie escapes to run and find help and when the guys leave after Georgie was shot, leaving Ann and George locked inside their own house. These are excellent moments of suspense, when you want to know if any of them will get out alive, if the killers will come back, etc.

 

Additional kudos goes to Naomi Watts for playing a character stronger than Roth. When your hands and feet have been bound by boxing tape and you’re only wearing a bra and panties, crying in front of the camera with 4 inches of snot coming out your nose, you madam are an ACTRESS, and have earned your pay. It didn’t hurt to be listed as an Exec Producer, either.

 

Finally, “Straw Dogs.” This movie, whether it likes it or not, is a blank-years late version of the controversial Peckinpah piece. If you’ve never seen the movie, here’s the rundown: a young American teacher (Hoffman) has an English wife and moves to the countryside. He’s a pacifist (the Vietnam War is going on) and is increasingly harassed by the local construction workers hired to work on his home. When they assault his home, he’s forced to take matters into his own hands. One of the greatest scenes in film history is the guy getting caught in a bear trap, but I may have said too much…

 

To end, I don’t recommend “Funny Games.” If you’re in the mood for a rental, I suggest “Straw Dogs,” it’s much better (and earlier) version. Sam Peckinpah (wherever he is) will thank you and is waiting for mano e mano combat with Mr. Haneke.

 

My grade: D

15
Mar
08

Movies on DVD Review: The Lives of Others

The Lives of Others

Back in the GDR!

Starring Martina Gedick, Ulrich Muhe, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, and Thomas Thieme. Directed and written by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck.

This film resonated with me.

The place and year: East Berlin, 1984. The German Communists have the Stasi, their Secret Police, who make it their job to know everything about everyone. Enter Hauptmann Weisler (Muhe), a Stasi who is good at interrogation. His boss Grubitz (Tukur) gives him a new assignment, coming from Minister Hempf (Thieme): find out whatever possible on playwright Georg Dreyman (Koch). After Weisler “bugs” the apartment he personally listens in on the playwright’s life and discovers the Hempf is forcing Dreyman’s girlfriend Christa-Marie (Gedick) into having an affair just so she can continue living her life of being an actress. Weisler then talks with Gribitz, who tells him that Hempf cannot be recorded. This changers Weisler’s opinion on what he’s doing and what’s going on, as well as how the events will unfold.

What I enjoyed most about the movie was its gritty historic reality. The filmmaker quickly made understood the what, when, where, why, and how of the story. I was also impressed when I found out that all the equipment used by the Stasi was authentic; the props manager had gone through interrogation before and went to museums and private collectors to get them for the film.

Another theme that resonated with me is that of art vs. political culture. In the film Dreyman is the leading Socialist playwright who is so because he doesn’t write anything controversial. His friend and mentor Albert Jerska (Volkmar Kleinert) was deemed “too harsh” on his social criticisms, and had been blacklisted for the past 5 years. His girlfriend is given the opportunity to save her life and continue acting if she “rats” him out. The situation is not unique just to Germany; several cultures have had their moments in time when art and political commentary are sacrificed for what their government feels is “the greater Good.”

Again, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. While the ending was a little happier than I would have imagined, I liked it nonetheless. So if you’re into historic or political thrillers, this is one you need to catch.

Of note, the film is in German with English Subtitles available. 

My grade: A