Archive for March, 2010

26
Mar
10

Movie News and Views Catch Up Part 2

“The Losers” – An elite U.S. Special Forces group get double-crossed and betrayed. After thought dead, they go after the mastermind behind it all. Based on a comic book. Stars Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana, Chris Evans, and Idris Elba. Opens April 9, 2010

“Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” – Shia LeBeouf is a successful investment banker whose firm is being threatened with bankruptcy. Douglas’ character has just been released from prison and teams up with Shia to take on a greater evil: Bretton James (Josh Brolin). Opens April 23, 2010

“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows” – Part One of the latest in the Harry Potter series. Opens November 19, 2010

“The Joneses” – The “perfect” family moves into a neighborhood but when the nosy neighbors try to find out why, they don’t exactly ‘fess up. Stars Amber Heard, David Duchovny, Demi Moore, and Lauren Hutton. Opens April 16, 2010

“A Nightmare on Elm Street” – Jackie Earle Haley puts his spin on the horror icon in this re-imagining/re-booting of the franchise. Opens April 30, 2010

“Get Him to the Greek” – Jonah Hill is a record company intern who has to get out-of-control British rocker Aldous Snow (Russell Brand) to the L.A. Greek Theater. Rawk! Opens June 4, 2010

“The A-Team” – I love it when a plan comes together, but how about a movie about that plan? “Smokin’ Aces” director Joe Carnahan helms this re-imagining of the 80’s TV series with Liam Neeson heading up the team. Also stars Bradley Cooper, Jessica Biel, Sharlto Copley, Patrick Wilson, and Quinton Jackson. I pity the fools… Opens June 11, 2010

“The Karate Kid” – Wax on, wax off. Jaiden Smith plays Dre, a kid whose mom moves to China. After getting into a few fights Dre is taught karate by Mr. Han (Jackie Chan). Watch and see if they’ll do the crane kick on June 11, 2010

“The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – A live-action version of the Mickey Mouse segment of “Fantasia,” but starring Nic Cage and Jay Baruchel. I hope there aren’t any dancing hippos… Magically brought to you by Disney on July 16, 2010

“Salt” – Angelina Jolie is “wanted” as a CIA operative accused of being a Russian spy who must prove her innocence. Also stars Liev Schreiber. Opens July 23, 2010

“Don McKay” – Thomas Haden Church is the titular character, a janitor who returns to his hometown after 25 years. He tries to rekindle a romance with his old flame (who happens to be dying). Also stars Elisabeth Shue, M. Emmet Walsh, and Keith David. Coming soon!

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26
Mar
10

Movie News and Views Catch-Up

All the Hollywood news you can digest in one sitting!

– According to a recent article James Cameron relayed that he sold the film rights for the “Terminator” franchise for $1. WHUH?!? It apparently happened during the 80’s when every-other filmmaker sold the rights to their first movie hoping to buy them back (see also: Wes Craven)

– Info on the new “Tekken” movie: Plot: Set in 2039, the greatest fighters from around the world come to compete in the last and greatest sporting event of all time, the Fist Tournament. After World Wars destroy much of civilization as we know it, the remaining territories are no longer run by governments, but by corporations the mightiest of which is Tekken. In order to keep the masses down, Tekken sponsors the Iron Fist Tournament in which fighters compete to the death for ultimate glory and receive a lifetime of stardom and wealth.

We are introduced to this violent world through the eyes of Jin Kazama, a street fighter that enters the tournament in order to avenge the death of his mother that he blames upon Tekken’s powerful and controlling Chairman, Heihachi Mishima. He knows that the only way to get close enough to Mishima to kill him is to win the tournament. With the help of Lucas, an ageing Iron Fist Champion and fight trainer, Jin makes his way through the tournament, but in doing so, he begins to uncover his own past and inner demons as well as exposing a dark underbelly to Tekken that threatens the very existence of humanity. With futuristic and imaginative sets, a compelling story, and fight sequences combining fighting styles from all over the world.

– Christopher Walken prefers to raid the wardrobes of the movies he’s in as opposed to buying new clothes.

– “Star Trek” became the most downloaded movie of 2009.

– And, the plot for the “Yogi Bear” movie: Plot: Jellystone Park has been losing business, so greedy Mayor Brown decides to shut it down and sell the land. That means families will no longer be able to experience the natural beauty of the outdoors — and, even worse, Yogi and Boo Boo will be tossed out of the only home they’ve ever known. Faced with his biggest challenge ever, Yogi must prove that he really is “smarter than the average bear” as he and Boo Boo join forces with their old nemesis Ranger Smith to find a way to save Jellystone Park from closing forever.

– “Da Vinci Code 3” based on the book “Lost Symbol” is in the works. Did anyone bother watching “Angels and Demons?”

– Sandra Bullock was the voted the top money-maker for 2009 and the first actress to break the $200 million mark. Really?

– Mel Gibson’s production company Icon Entertainment has signed on to produce “Mad Max 4.”

– In Hollywood, sex apparently does NOT sell. According to research done on movies released between 2001 and 2005, those that had more gratuitous/graphic sex scenes did not perform as well at the box office for both critics and audiences.

– The Number One Trailer on Yahoo! For 2009? “Twilight: New Moon.”

–  According to a recent Vanity Fair poll, most Americans would love to star in a Clint Eastwood Western. Do these people not realize that no one BUT Eastwood survives an Eastwood Western?

– The release date for “Star Trek 2” is June 29, 2012.

– Art Clokey, the guy who created “Gumby,” died on Jan. 10, 2010 at the age of 88.

– Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire have left “Spider-Man 4.” The current director is Marc Webb (“500 Days of Summer”). Sam Raimi is now set to direct “World of Warcraft.”

– Brendan Fraser didn’t know the name of the character he played in “G.I. Joe” until he read the movie’s credits.

– Ivan Reitman is set to direct “Ghostbusters 3”

– Joaquin Phoenix is in post-production with his rap documentary. Yay, we were all waiting for that…

– Shane Black is attached to direct a Doc Savage movie, based on the comic book character.

– Atari’s “Missile Command” is slated to become a 3-D movie.

– Dean Koontz’s “Frankenstein” series of books are heading cinematic adaptation.

– Kevin Smith took a pay cut in order for “Cop Out” to keep its R-rating.

– Daryl Hannah claims that she is “blacklisted’ by Hollywood because she has Asperger’s Syndrome.

– The rights for the “Terminator” franchise sold for $29.5 million.

– MTV has finally admitted that they are no longer a music channel and have changed their logo to reflect that.

– A coroner’s office has revealed that Brittany Murphy died from a combination of pneumonia, anemia, and prescription drugs.

– Get ready for “Fast and the Furious” 5 & 6. Yay.

– For those of you with enough lose change, Miramax is on sale for $700 million.

– Actor Rip Torn (“Men In Black,” “Dodgeball”) was arrested for armed b & e of a bank in Connecticut.

– Guy Ritchie set to direct a sequel to “Sherlock Holmes.”

03
Mar
10

Marty’s Take on Hitch has Mixed Results

Please Observe “Andrea’s Law.”

Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Mark Ruffalo, Ben Kingsley, Max von Sydow, and Michelle Williams. Directed by Martin Scorsese. Based on the book by Dennis Lehane

Ask any film aficionado about Scorsese and they’ll talk about “Mean Streets,” “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” “Goodfellas,” “Casino,” “Gangs of New York,” and “The Departed.” He’s known for biographical movies (“Goodfellas,” “Raging Bull,” “The Aviator”) as well as music-related ones (“Shine a Light,” “No Direction Home,” “The Last Waltz”) Scorsese is a legendary filmmaker who has carved out a niche for himself with his gritty portrayals of gangsters, made men, New York, Boston, and any and all points in-between that the criminal underbelly has a piece of but for all his glory he’s not exempt from making a few forgettable films (“Bringing Out the Dead”). “Shutter Island” will wind up in that pile.

And it’s not that I’m against any director trying to artistically grow or evolve within their medium. On the contrary, I fully support that. The problem here is that Scorsese is making a film that competes in the genre of mystery/suspense/thriller that already has a legendary king (Alfred Hitchcock) and it’s not so much that he can’t go for the crown but truth be told, there are better contenders. Brad Anderson (“Session 9,” “The Machinist,” “Transsiberian”) and Christopher Nolan (“Insomnia,” “Memento,” “The Prestige”) are both examples of filmmakers who are masters of the genre. I can appreciate Scorsese’s entry into it and while he is better than, say, M. Night Shamma-Lamma-Ding-Dong, he’s still a far cry from the two mentioned above.

Andrea’s Law of Island Watching: any movie title including the word “island” is suspicious. Only TV show titles can get away with this. E.g. “Fantasy Island”.

“Shutter Island” is the third movie to be based on a Dennis Lehane novel (“Mystic River,” and “Gone Baby Gone” being the other two) and stars Leonardo DiCapro as the main protagonist, Federal Marshal Ted Daniels. When the movie begins it’s 1954 and Daniels is seasick on a long ferry ride to Ashecliffe Hospital, a mental institution located on an island which houses an old Civil War fort. Daniels has a new partner, Chuck Aule (Ruffalo), who contends that Ted is “legendary.” Ted gives Chuck the lowdown.

A woman named Rachel Soledad disappeared –literally vanished- from her cell. No one knows what happened and the Feds were contacted. Daniels picked up the assignment. Soledad is “dangerous” because she murdered her three children by drowning them in a lake. The police found her in her home with the three children sitting around the table as she was eating. Yeah, bizarre.

Ted and Chuck get to the island and have to surrender their firearms before getting the five-cent tour. Guys in Wing A, girls in Wing B, and the most dangerous of all are in Wing C, the old fort building complete with electric fence and lighthouse. They’re introduced to Dr. Cawley (Kingsley) who professes to want to “help” people over giving them pills, electroshock therapy, or lobotomies. Later that night they meet the other head doctor Naehring (Sydow). Deep inside, Daniels is steaming.

As it all progresses, we learn more about Ted Daniels. He was a soldier in World War II and was there when they captured the Dachau concentration camp. He watched as the Commandant died on the floor from a suicide attempt made slow by screwing-up. He helped to line-up Germans at the camp and mass execute them. Upon returning home he began drinking and distanced his wife (Williams). She died from smoke inhalation when an arsonist named Laeddis set their place on fire. These are the facts as he, and we, know them.

But strange things are afoot at the Ashecliffe Hospital. Ted and Chuck try interviewing the orderlies and no one knows how Rachel escaped; Ted feels that she had to have help. During an interview with one of the patients she grabs his notebook and scrawls RUN. He knows that something’s up and believes that everyone’ story has been coached. Cawley won’t give up personnel records. After finding a scrap of paper that says “The Rule of 4” and “Who is 67?” Ted wants to get back to the mainland and file his report that his investigation has been impeded.

But wait. A hurricane hits the island and everything goes haywire. Ted begins to see visions of his dead wife who instructs him as to what to do. He also has migraine headaches. Chuck and him go to check out Wing C where he runs into George Noyce (Jackie Earle Haley) who tells him that he’s a “rat in a maze” and not to pay attention to the visions of his dead wife. Making their way back to the main building they find out that Rachel has returned to her cell. Case closed… or is it? The world around Ted Daniels begins to unravel as he questions himself, his sanity, the visions, and even his new partner as he investigates the disappearance of Rachel Soledad and what it means while he tries to “blow the top off” what’s going on at Ashecliffe Hospital.

While the trailer for the movie exhibited signs of being “horrifying,” “creepy,” or even “scary,” the film is more about tension and surreality. The film starts off like it’s of the “haunted house/DON’T GO IN THERE” genre; you know, the formula where the movie protagonists go against clear, common sense logic and enter the realm of evil with no guarantee of return of return. By the end of the film it’s more of an “Eyes Wide Shut”/”this is all for your psychological benefit”-thing.

I’m not going to give away the ending of the film directly (although I kinda already have) but I will say that Scorsese does present the truth of what happened not in montage, but in the full sequence so I will give kudos for that. DiCaprio and everyone involved do well enough with what they’re given but surreal filmmaking is –again- not Scorsese’s strongpoint. As for trying to be like Hitchcock… well, Scorsese can build-up the suspense and action but there’s something lost in the translation.

The film sits at “okay.” Not great and nothing I would go watch again in a hurry. If you decide to check it out, I suggest matinee price at most. As I walked out of the theater several groups of people who saw it gathered and talked about it, so at least Marty gave them something to talk about, even if there was a lot of grumbling and mixed reactions.

My grade: C

01
Mar
10

Movie Review: Valentine’s Day

WATCH Hollywood cram a holiday into 2 hours…

Starring Jessica Alba, Kathy Bates, Jessica Biel, Bradley Cooper, Eric Dane, Patrick Dempsey, Hector Elizondo, Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Topher Grace, Anne Hathaway, Carter Jenkins, Ashton Kutcher, Queen Latifah, Taylor Lautner, George Lopez, Shirley MacLaine, Emma Roberts, Julia Roberts, Bryce Robinson, and Taylor Swift. Directed by Garry Marshall

24 hours of love and loss in Los Angeles. And yes, the entire cast is used.

Since there is no real plot to the story, and I guess you could argue that love really has no plot, let me give the rundown: The day begins with Reed Bennett (Kutcher) proposing to his live-in career-minded girlfriend Morley (Alba). With a “Yes” he’s triumphant and heads out to the shop for the busiest day of the year with his business partner and friend, Alphonso (Lopez).

Julia Fitzpatrick (Garner) wakes up after a night of great lovemaking with her boyfriend Harrison. Harrison is getting ready to go to a conference up in San Fran. Julia is a teacher while Harrison is a –supposedly- divorced cardiologist.

Also enjoying last night were Jason (Grace) and Liz (Hathaway). Liz is late for her job as a temp working at a Talent agency for Paula Thomas (Latifah) and rushes out to get on her bike when she gets a phone call from her other job, which is being an adult entertainment operator. Jason works in the mail room of a company and has only known Liz for 2 weeks.

Kelvin Moore (Foxx) is the number two sportscaster for a local station and he’s given a task by his producer, Susan (Bates): he has to do a “Man on the Street” Valentine’s Day segment. With some protest, and because it’s a slow news day, he relents and goes to do the piece.

Speaking of sports, quarterback Sean Jackson (Dane) has some problems with his career. His agent Kara (Biel) is torn between figuring a way for him to get out of the situation he’s in and keep her Anti-Valentine’s Day party going.

On a 14-hour flight back to L.A., Captain Kate Hazeltine (Julia Roberts) is napping on the shoulder of Holden (Cooper). Kate has one day, Valentine’s, to see her son before she’s shipped back to duty in the Middle East. Holden is a smart, savvy professional who isn’t a big fan of the holiday but builds a connection with Kate.

High school track star Willy (Lautner) and his dance team girlfriend Felicia (Swift) are in love, so much so that he gave her a giant, white teddy bear. Meanwhile, Alex (Jenkins) and Grace (Emma Roberts) are dealing with the pressures of “doing the do” for the first time.

And love isn’t just for teens and adults. Edgar (Elizondo) and Estelle (MacLaine) are a little bit away from renewing their vows, but Estelle has a secret. Incidentally so does their grandson Edison (Robinson).

I think that covers everyone. Are you confused?

What happens next is how all these lives run parallel, intersect and somehow make it through the heartwarming and heartbreak of Valentine’s. Morley confesses to Reed that she’s more into her career than him. Julia books a plane ticket to San Fran to be with Harrison, not knowing he’s in Brentwood with his wife and kid. Jason debates what to do about Liz for Valentine’s Day while Liz deals with the keeping her phone sex operator job a secret. Kelvin doesn’t want to do the “Man on the Street” bit and winds up befriending Kara. Sean doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life. Alex has a misadventure professing his love for Grace; he stands in her room naked, strumming a guitar and waiting for her when Grace’s mom walks in on him. Estelle finally tells Edgar that years ago she had an affair on him with his business partner.

And so goes the stories of the L.A. lovelorn. The movie covers the entire day’s events, with occasional narration from Romeo Midnight (Paul Williams).

What else can I say about the movie? Well, they found a way to squeeze everything you like, and a lot of what you don’t, about Valentine’s Day into 2 hours. And with one of the largest ensemble casts I can think of in a while that’s no small task, so I’ll give them that credit.

I can say that there are some good performances in here but with so many stories going on, it’s difficult for me to ascertain who was better than whom. I’m half-and-half with romantic movies so aside from the sickening saccharine of the first hour, the rest of the movie went pretty smoothly. I give credit to giving the tribulations of love a reality I seldom see in other films.

And what’s the moral to the story? Sometimes love is staring at you all along and sometimes, it’s your best friend. Loving somebody is about loving all of them; the small things as well as the big. Sometimes people should have the courage to stop others when they see something as being wrong. Love hurts and love heals.

My grade: B

01
Mar
10

Movie Review: The Book of Eli

A Bible, an iPod, and the post-apocalyptic power of prayer…

Starring Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, and Jennifer Beals. Directed by the Hughes Brothers.

I was not expecting the amount of Christian allegory this movie had. Think “The Road” with a copy of King James being toted around.

It’s post-apocalyptic America and just like the movie “The Road,” we the audience have no clue as to what happened. Apparently, a big FLASH occurred and a good chunk of society became blind. Those not blind walk around wearing sunglasses all the time. Some electronics (e.g. an iPod) work but since there’s no running electricity or water there’s not much of a use for any of it.

Washington is Eli and Eli’s coming or rather going west to some unnamed destination. When we first meet him he checks out an abandoned shack, stocks up on supplies, trades in for a new pair of boots, and listens to his iPod (at least digital music makes it into the future). The next day Eli is confronted by a gang of road hijackers and in a fight sequence paying homage to the House of Blue Leaves’ silhouetted fight scene from “Kill Bill Vol. 1” Leaving no one alive but a woman acting as a decoy for the gang let me quote another Tarantino flick, “From Duck ‘til Dawn,” in saying that he’s a “mean mother-f’n servant of God.”

Eli makes his way into a Western-looking town ran by Carnegie (Oldman). Carnegie is a good ole boy and big fish in a small pond, ruling over the small town from the upper floor of a bar. He sends out his minion of thugs to bring back books, looking for the One Book to rule them all (one book to find them and in the darkness bind them…) Eli comes to town and Carnegie is so impressed with him that he lets him stay the night to mull over the decision to work for him. Eli isn’t interested in that because he’s heading west for his own reasons. Carnegie isn’t the type of guy who takes an answer he doesn’t already give to someone and when he finds that Eli has a book, THE BIBLE, he orders Eli to hand it over or be killed. Eli isn’t much for either happening and makes his way out of town.

Solara (Kunis) is so impressed by Eli, or maybe just intrigued, that she tags along with him. She was born after whatever happened and like most of the rest of society, doesn’t know how to read. Eli tries to get rid of her but the two become traveling partners as he further attempts to head west. She finds that he’s been walking around, trying to head west, for 31 years. But the who, what, where, when, why, and how of his life is kept secret. As they’re on the run from Carnegie and his gang they have a few misadventures before they make it to the ocean and the Promised Land (of Alcatraz Island).

The movie started out okay, then went bad, kept being bad, got a little bit better, got more interesting, had a great twist, and then went dumb, all in that order. It felt like Washington was walking around a “digitally” created apocalypse and it shows. Also, the use of sepia and gray filters did not feel completely even. The Hughes Brothers should have really checked out “The Road” or at least Hillcoat’s “The Proposition,” or maybe even “The Road Warrior” and come up with compelling gangmembers. Something.

The movie comes with two twists. The first twist works WELL and I really liked it. Carnegie has his ass handed to him and this veritable King Nothing watches as his empire dismantles. My problem was with plot twist number two, which is that Eli is BLIND. I’m sorry, my suspension of disbelief became shot to hell on that idea. The Hughes Brothers may have tried implying it in a few scenes but very rarely, if ever, did Washington’s character seem to be even remotely blind. Having sight and reading the book with regards to Plot Point #1 would’ve worked just fine; instituting Plot Point #2 but not entirely backing it up through the entire production is just bad filmmaking.

And finally the amount of heavy-handed Christianity in the film seemed a bit much. If not for language and violence this film bordered on being something that could’ve been shown on, or produced by, the Trinity Broadcasting Network. I’ll probably catch some flack for this because I usually praise the use of spirituality in a movie but this movie reeks of Christianity in every frame. Society as a whole is “lost” and the Bible leads the way. Eli is following the Word of God to deliver the book west. Carnegie is the Devil wanting to use the Scripture for his own purposes…

Watch for Tom Waits (yep he made it to the apocalypse, too) as Engineer in Carnegie’s town and Malcolm McDowell as Lombardi, a librarian.

My grade: C