Archive for the '2008' Category

06
Jan
09

Ten Faves from ’08

I don’t know about you, but I was disappointed.

 

If the question is, “What did I expect from the films of 2008?” my answer would be, “A better film year than 2007.” Not to say that 2007 was bad; the tail-end of it made up for most of that year. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of 2008.

 

“Indiana Jones 4” (aka “Indy Gets an X-File”) was ludicrous if not insulting. And speaking of “X-Files” the return of Mulder and Scully to the screen was warranted, but the story wasn’t. “Speed Racer” could’ve been more fun, “Prince Caspian” could’ve used more characterization and plot. “Untraceable” was among those movies that couldn’t have been saved, period.

 

However, it wasn’t all bad. “Iron Man” and “The Dark Knight” proved that superheroes can rule the day, if not the box office (although “Hellboy 2” was underrated). Pixar pixel pixies made mechanics emotional with “Wall*E.” Robert Downey, Jr. didn’t just make “Iron Man,” he made “Tropic Thunder” as Kirk Lazarus, an Australian method-actor who undergoes pigmentation-surgery to portray a black Sergeant in Vietnam. And “City of Ember” was the best and most-overlooked kids’ movie.

 

In alphabetical order, here are my Ten Faves from ’08.

 

bank_job1“The Bank Job” – I caught this one on DVD. After I finished watching it, I kicked myself. This movie was interesting, fun, and a great throwback to the Seventies.

 

 

 

 

city_of_ember“City of Ember” – Thoughtful, well-made post-apocalyptic kids’ movie. I was surprised.

 

 

 

 

 

dark_knight“The Dark Knight” – This movie is entirely on a different plain of filmmaking. Kudos to Christopher Nolan on doing such a great job and to Heath Ledger, who gave one of his best performances ever (and his last).

 

 

 

 

hellboy_two“Hellboy 2: The Golden Army” – Fun fantasy film from Guillermo del Toro. I really enjoyed this one. “Hellboy” is beginning to grow on me.

 

 

 

 

iron_man“Iron Man” – A great popcorn blockbuster movie to begin the summer with. Robert Downey Jr. was nothing less than perfectly casted. Jeff Bridges had fun being the bad guy.

 

 

 

 

leatherheads“Leatherheads” – Another overlooked movie. George Clooney spent years trying to bring this one to light. It’s funny, quirky, zany, screwball… and made football interesting.

 

 

 

 

son_of_rambow“Son of Rambow” – British indie about kids who learn to make film, not war. Great fun and a tribute to filmmaking (moreso than “Zack and Miri”).

 

 

 

 

transsiberian“Transsiberian” – Emily Mortimer steals this movie from Woody Harrelson and Ben Kingsley. A great follow-up to “Session 9” and “The Machinist,” also directed by Brad Anderson.

 

 

 

 

tropic_thunder“Tropic Thunder” – I initially thought this was shallow at first, but repeated viewings on DVD make this one even better.”I’m the dude playin’ the dude, disguised as another dude!”

 

 

 

 

wall_e“Wall*E” – Wall*E is the story of the little robot that fell in love. Environmental and biological themes abound but don’t get too preachy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

That’s all, folks. See ya at the movies in 2009!

-Chas

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01
Jan
09

Movie Review: The Spirit

spirit

 

 

My movie screens and I am her reviewer.

 

Starring Gabriel Macht, Jaime King, Eva Mendes, Scarlett Johansson, and Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by Frank Miller. Based on the graphic novel by Will Eisner.

 

I expected it to be stylized, but didn’t expect it to get boring.

 

Story: It’s Central City. Think Basin City from “Sin City,” but with no anima. Denny Colt (Macht) is a cop who is shot in the chest and dies, only to be miraculously resurrected and take the form of masked crime-fighter “The Spirit.” His arch-nemesis is “The Octopus” (Jackson), a former coroner turned mad scientist/ criminal mastermind. When a cop is all but murdered “The Spirit” is on the case: a case of switched cases. He soon runs into old flame-turned-jewel heist queen Sand Seref who got the box containing a vase holding blood of Heracles (or Hercules, if you will) when she wanted the case with the “bling”: Jason’s Golden Fleece. Eventually this all gets sorted out. Eventually.

 

I wasn’t expecting much from this movie, but even with lowered expectations this movie slips under the bar. For what it’s worth the movie isn’t so much bad as it is boring. We’re treated to an alternate-now detective story where the characters act as if they were plucked straight from a 1940’s film noir. Or maybe it IS the 1940’s and some dimensional portal gave them cellphones, copiers, assault rifles, and helicopters. Either way, “The Spirit” takes place in this world and apparently people are few and far between. Aside from cops and crooks, very few people seem to exist in the sprawling mecca of Central City.

 

“Spirit” himself comes off as Clint Eastwood when he narrates but when he’s doing his job is basically no more than what he was when he died: a rookie cop. Only now he can get shot, hit, hurt, etc. and heal from the wounds. How is this possible especially when every time he thinks back, every time he blacks out, death/ Lorelei (King) is waiting to claim him? Well, that’s all due to the Octopus.

 

And The Octopus is busy finding the key to immortality (the blood of Heracles). With the help of his assistant Silken Floss (Johansson) and always-replenishing clones Pathos, Logos, etc. (Louis Lombardi) he plans on achieving it. Problem is that his henchmen are morons that he keeps killing off only to create more. Oh yeah, and believability.

 

This is the type of movie that I wonder if the actors involved even bothered watching it. There’s one point in the film where The Spirit is tied-up and The Octopus and Silken Floss are marching around in Nazi uniforms. And The Octopus’ ensemble is complete with a monocle. Seriously. Jackson has done worse I suppose but I wonder if Johansson watched it and thought, “maybe ‘Eight-Legged Freaks’ wasn’t as bad as I thought.”

 

Note: The above scene also contains a line where the Spirit asks, “I can be bored, can’t I?” Well yes you can. But I paid $9 and it wasn’t expecting to be.

 

For the most part, Miller did a good job on the “look” of the film. Yes, it does feel a little like “Sin City.” Yes, you made the actors and CG look nearly seamless. Yes, Eva Mendes is hot while she is scantily clad when everyone else in the scene is dressed for below-zero temperatures.

 

My grade: C

01
Jan
09

Movies on DVD Review: Hancock

hancock

 

A superhero mess of a movie.

Starring Will Smith, Justin Bateman, and Charlize Theron. Directed by Peter Berg.

I’m glad I didn’t shell out money on this one.

Story: $mith is Hancock, an alcoholic, washed-up amnesia-victimized superhero living in L.A. who causes more harm and damage than good. When he saves the life of PR professional Ray Embrey (Bateman), Embrey decides to return the favor by representing Hancock. Hancock begins to clean up his act, starting with voluntary jail time. When crime rises 40%, the city calls Hancock back into action. After, he finds out a secret from Ray’s wife Mary (Theron) that threatens the Embreys as well as himself.

The movie can be divided into three parts, as I will demonstrate:

Part One: Everything you saw in the trailer. Everything. If you saw it in the trailer or on a TV spot, it’s within the first third of the movie. $mith is a drunken superhero. $mith saves lives but at a giant cost. $mith saves Bateman. Theron stares at $mith weirdly.

Part Two: Hancock tries redeeming himself. This was the best part of the movie in my opinion. $mith tries being nicer. He goes to jail. He’s released and saves the day with minimal injuries. Everything is going well until…

Part Three: The ‘plot twist.’ In a way that only M. Night Shamma-lamma-ding-dong can appreciate, $mith finds that he’s over 3,000 years old and was married to Theron, who is also a superhero. They have a gigantic fight that goes from the mountains to the middle of L.A. Meanwhile, a group of cons escape prison. $mith ends up in the hospital Theron tells him that as long as they’re near each other, their powers diminish. The convicts find them and war breaks out in the hospital. Theron is shot and nears death, $mith stops the convicts and flies away. Eventually, everything gets better.

The biggest problem with this movie, aside from the structure, are the leaps in logic (what is commonly referred to as “suspension of disbelief”). In the Information Age, why couldn’t he find out who he was by going to the library? Wouldn’t there be public records, newspaper articles, something to remind him of who he was? Secondly, if Theron and $mith become mortal by being around one another, why did Theron leave only to “pretend” to be mortal around Ray and his kid?

But maybe the biggest crime is having a superhero movie without an arch-nemesis. Three convicts escape prison to go and kick Hancock while he’s down? What kind of bull is that? Yeah, I saw “Superman 2” and while Superman gave up his powers and was mortal he did it with conviction and he paid for the consequences; it was a choice he made, not a “by the way, check this out” convenient plot point. Wait a moment… “Superman 2” had three escaped convicts who took on the Man of Steel while he was mortal. Thieves! You screenwriting THIEVES!

And yes, the “plot twist” is an interesting concept, but in the movie it felt extremely B.S.

Sadly, $mith is working on the sequel to this.

My grade: C-

30
Dec
08

In Passing… Looking Back at 2008

rip

 

 

 

These are a few of the talented and influential artists that have passed away this year…

 

 

Forest J. Ackerman

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/in-passing-forest-j-ackerman-1916-2008/

 

Sam Bottoms

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/in-passing%e2%80%a6-sam-bottoms-1955-2008/

 

George Carlin

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/06/23/in-passing-george-carlin-1937-2008/

 

Michael Crichton

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/11/05/in-passing-michael-crichton-1942-2008/

 

Don S. Davis

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/07/01/in-passing-don-s-davis-1942-2008/

 

Estelle Getty

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/07/22/in-passing-estelle-getty-1923-2008/

 

Isaac Hayes

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/in-passing%e2%80%a6-isaac-hayes-1942-2008/

 

Van Johnson                                                            

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/18/in-passing-van-johnson-1916-2008/

 

Eartha Kitt

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/26/in-passing-eartha-kitt-1927-2008/

 

Harvey Korman

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/05/30/in-passing-harvey-korman-1927-2008/

 

Don LaFontaine

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/in-passing-don-lafontaine-1940-2008/

 

Bernie Mac

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/08/11/in-passing%e2%80%a6-bernie-mac-1957-2008/

 

Robert Mulligan

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/22/in-passing-robert-mulligan-1925-2008/

 

Paul Newman

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/09/29/in-passing-paul-newman-1925-2008/

Bettie Page

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/12/in-passing-bettie-page-1923-2008/

 

Sydney Pollack

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/05/27/in-passing%e2%80%a6-sydney-pollack-1934-2008/

 

Jerry Reed

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/09/02/in-passing-jerry-reed-1937-2008/

 

Majel Barrett Roddenberry

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/19/in-passing%e2%80%a6-majel-barrett-roddenberry-1932-2008/

 

Stan Winston

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/in-passing-stan-winston-1946-2008/

30
Dec
08

2008: Year in Movie Reviews

2008movies

 

 

The Bank Job

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/05/movies-on-dvd-review-the-bank-job/

 

Burn After Reading

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/10/01/movie-review-burn-after-reading/

 

Choke

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/10/27/movie-review-choke/

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/05/20/movie-review-the-chronicles-of-narnia-prince-caspian/

 

City of Ember

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/10/28/movie-review-city-of-ember/

 

The Dark Knight

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/07/21/movie-review-the-dark-knight/

 

Funny Games

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/03/17/movie-review-funny-games/

 

Get Smart

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/06/24/movie-review-get-smart/

 

Hamlet 2

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/09/10/movie-review-hamlet-2/

 

Hellboy 2: The Golden Army

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/07/14/movie-review-hellboy-2-the-golden-army/

 

The Incredible Hulk

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/movie-review-the-incredible-hulk/

 

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/05/22/indiana-jones-and-the-kingdom-of-the-crystal-skull/

 

Iron Man

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/05/02/movie-review-iron-man/

 

Jumper

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/03/07/movie-review-jumper/

 

Leatherheads

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/04/07/movie-review-leatherheads/

 

Quantum of Solace

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/11/17/movie-review-quantum-of-solace/

 

Son of Rambow

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/06/13/movie-review-son-of-rambow/

 

Speed Racer

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/05/10/movie-review-speed-racer/

 

Transsiberian

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/09/12/movie-review-transsiberian/

 

Tropic Thunder

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/08/15/movie-review-tropic-thunder/

 

W

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/11/14/movie-review-w/

 

Wall*E

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/07/10/movie-review-walle/

 

Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/07/21/movie-review-where-in-the-world-is-osama-bin-laden/

 

X-Files: I Want to Believe

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/07/28/movie-review-x-files-i-want-to-believe/

 

Zack and Miri Make a Porno

https://chasness.wordpress.com/2008/12/24/movie-review-zack-and-miri-make-a-porno/

29
Dec
08

Is Kevin Smith Still Relevant?

kevin_smith

 

 

 

Writer, director, and comic book artist Kevin Smith came into the Entertainment Scene in 1994 releasing his first film, “Clerks,” about a Quick Stop convenience store employee who was dealing with relationship problems while having problems with customers. Using credit cards and money borrowed from his family, as well as shooting at the Quick Stop where Smith worked during nights and in-between customers, the movie was an epitome of the Independent Films of the Nineties and traveled the film festival circuit before being picked up by Miramax, which gave him money to shoot additional scenes as well as pay for music rights (which cost more than the film itself).

 

The next year Smith received a bigger budget and made “Mallrats,” a movie about comic book-loving slackers who are dumped by their girlfriends and seek refuge at the local mall. This film featured a few people from “Clerks,” most notably the duo Jay and Silent Bob (Jay Mewes and Kevin Smith). The film’s budget was $6 million and brought in $2.1 million; a nearly critical failure for Smith. The best thing to come from this movie was that it was Jason Lee’s debut, who went on to do more Kevin Smith movies as well as the film “Almost Famous” and the hit NBC series, “My Name is Earl.”

 

Smith redeemed himself with the follow-up, “Chasing Amy” (1997) Ben Affleck starred as Holden McNeil, a comic book artist who falls in love with a lesbian comic book artist played by Joey Lauren Adams. The movie was a critical hit for Smith, being better received than “Clerks” and especially “Mallrats.”

 

From that point Kevin Smith climbed the filmmaking ladder with follow-up hit, “Dogma.” Smith had gained more “star power” with casting Linda Fiorentino, Alan Rickman, Chris Rock, Salma Hayek, George Carlin, Janeane Garofalo, and Alanis Morissette. Made on a budget of $10 million, it earned most of it back within its first weekend ($8 mil). Controversy from the Catholic Church surrounded it, possibly driving more people to go and watch it.

 

With the characters Jay and Silent Bob, as well as the inter-weaving of stories through Smith’s “View Askew Universe,” it was only fitting that Smith’s next film was, “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” following the two convenient store misanthropes as they head to Hollywood to stop production of a Bluntman and Chronic movie. Smith has called it a “$15 million inside joke,” making it for the fans and to tie-up any loose-ends of the “View Askew Universe.”

 

And with the finalization of “Jay and Silent Bob…” Smith was closing a chapter on what made him famous: slacker characters and “dick and fart jokes.” As quoted by Ben Affleck: “Why in God’s name would I wanna keep writing about characters whose central preoccupations are weed and dick and fart jokes? I mean, ya gotta grow man. Don’t you ever want anything more for yourself?” Kevin Smith did, and walked away from the characters in View Askew.

 

Three years later Smith returned with “Jersey Girl.” Most the fanbase, reared on “Jay and Silent Bob” as well as Smith’s dialog (read: cussing and weed, dick, and fart jokes) turned away. The reasons differed, but most of the reasons stem from Ben Affleck’s relationship with Jennifer Lopez. To his credit, Smith made a good film. Not great, and not what he had built his career on, but it showed that Smith’s “Peter Pan” syndrome was well behind him.

 

Or so it seemed.

 

Sans any good ideas, Smith returned to his roots: “Clerks.” Cashing in on “sequel-itis,” “Clerks II” showed slackers Dante and Randall having to find jobs after the Quick Stop catches on fire. Here Smith returns to what made him popular: the View Askew Universe of characters. While the film did make its money, “Clerks II” was a far cry from Smith’s previous VA Universe ventures.

 

Which brings me to “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.” Greenlit by the Weinsteins before Smith had even written the script, “Zack and Miri” follows as two lifelong friends, strapped for cash, make a porno. Reportedly, this was based on Smith’s experiences in making “Clerks.”

 

And it’s this stagnation that makes me question Kevin Smith as a filmmaker. Ever since Smith has “struck out on his own” from the View Askew-verse, his road has been worse than a flat tire forced across speedbumps. I will give him credit for “growing up” and making “Jersey Girl,” and accept why it wasn’t as popular as his previous entries. However, he has mined the “Clerks” shaft all the way to China. He made a “Clerks” animated series, released a special “Clerks X” DVD with commentaries, original version, etc., and made a sequel not even as good as the original (which, in the world of his characters, requires chastising). Harlan Ellison once said that, “Gene Roddenberry had only one good idea in his lifetime, and that was ‘Star Trek.’” It seems that “Clerks” may be Smith’s “one good idea.”

 

If I had one thing to say to Mr. Smith, it would be, “Yes, I know that you LOVE ‘Star Wars’ and ‘Indiana Jones.’ We GOT that. Can you please move on?” I don’t mind the occasional reference to the series, I love them myself, but how many references to Spielberg and Lucas do you need? For God’s sake man, we get it!” And you can only keep profane language, comic book references, weed, dick, and fart jokes going for so long.

 

So, I’m opening this up for discussion. Is Kevin Smith still relevant? Is he still a filmmaker to be admired, or are his fifteen minutes up? Give me your thoughts.

 

clerksmallratschasing_amydogma1jay_and_silent_bob_strike_backjersey_girlclerks_iizack_and_miri_make_a_porno1

 

26
Dec
08

In Passing… Eartha Kitt (1927-2008)

eartha-kitt

 

 

Singer, dancer, and actress Eartha Kitt passed away yesterday from colon cancer. Born to a half Cherokee/ half African-American mother and a German/ Dutch father in South Carolina she was raised by Anna Mae Riley, whom she believed to be her mother. After Riley’s death she was sent to New York to live with her biological mother, Mamie Kitt. By the age of 20 she was performing with the Katherine Dunham Company and made her film debut with them in “Casbah” (1948). In 1950 Orson Welles gave her the role of Helen of Troy in “Faustus.” They would have a love affair with Welles’ calling her, “the most exciting woman in the world.” Her sexiness would amp-up with her recording of “Santa Baby” in 1953. She would continue on with TV and film roles, notably subbing in for Julie Newmar on the last season of “Batman.” In the late Sixties she made anti-war statements which led to professional exile. A return to Broadway in 1978 in the show “Timbuktu!” earned her a Tony nomination for Best Actress in a Musical. Since then she has alternated between TV, film, and the stage. She was 81 years of age.

Thoughts and prayers to her family and friends.

For more information, check out her IMDB page at:
http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0457755/