Posts Tagged ‘news



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

26
Feb
10

Movie Review: When in Rome

Vote for Jose.

Starring Kristen Bell, Josh Duhamel, Will Arnett, Jon Heder, Dax Shepard, Danny DeVito, and Anjelica Huston. Directed by Mark Steven Johnson.

Hey Kids! You wanna make your own romantic comedy? Follow along!

First off: you need a strong female character whose life is hectic, but organized. She must so in love with her career that she doesn’t have time to find love. Take Beth (Bell). She’s the youngest art curator at a museum. She hasn’t found a guy that she loves more than her career.

Okay, now we need a reason for this strong, independent female character to fall in love, so we’ll inject “societal pressure.” Beth’s ex-boyfriend Brady Sacks (Lee Pace) walks up to her and tells her that he has found the perfect match and he’s getting married! Also, she receives a phone call from her younger sister who tells Beth that she is getting married in Italy! Double-whammy!

Let’s enter the Suitor that Even the Audience Knows She’ll Fall in Love with: Nick (Josh Duhamel). Nick is socially awkward, charming, and a sports journalist to boot. He has a geek friend/editor and lives in the “bachelor pad.”

The two need to meet. In this case, one is a bridesmaid and the other a groomsman. Now we have the problem of filling an additional 80 minutes because while we know that Girl A has to get together with Guy B, they can’t be together until the end of the film (in network TV this can take YEARS). This problem is often best fixed using magic or some ancient legend/curse/etc. How about having the female character get drunk and go in the middle of the town square and pick out a few coins. No harm, no foul. Right?

The female character must return to her hectic life, completely oblivious to the coming consequences of what she did. In this case each coin is magically connected to a guy who tossed it into the fountain looking for love on a whim. There’s the street magician Lance (Heder). And Italian artist Antonio (Arnett). And narcissistic model Gale (Shepard). And finally a sausage distributor (DeVito). Each of these characters must be two-dimensional at most (so as not to “show up” the Suitor).

Now, you have to add chaos to the mix and fill in that 80-minute gap to keep Guy and Girl from being together until the very end. For this movie we’ll have each of the other “quirky” suitors show who they are and how magically infatuated with the Girl they are. The Magician tries pulling a “Houdini” in Beth’s apartment. The Model shows up at a restaurant Beth is eating at and presents his modeling portfolio to her as well as taking his shirt off in front of the entire restaurant. The Artist paints an 80-foot tall mural of her naked. The Sausage Distributor shows up at her work and asks for a personal tour.

Each of these characters must find a way to further keep Guy from being with Girl. This includes excessive deliveries of flowers to her as well as breaking up a date. But this isn’t enough. You must instill a seed of doubt in the Girl that she has found True Love. Beth finds out that the reason she has been followed by the others professing their love is because she plucked their coins out of the fountain. Is it possible that one of the coins belonged to Nick?

We’re not done just yet; there’s the “running” scene. This scene is pivotal because the Girl needs to know that the Guy will go to the ends of the Earth for her, and the Guy has to physically run to show that he’s willing to go the distance for her (literal and symbolic) and to show that he’s athletic. This MUST occur with some hint of danger (guy doesn’t make flight/performance/gala event/etc.) Nick must outrun inclemently bad weather (read: lightning strikes) to make it to the museum unveiling.

Guy makes it there and Girl confesses that she loves him and vice versa. Everyone is happy, all has reverted to normal. Almost. There is still that shred of doubt that true love is not completely true. Beth runs out on her wedding to Nick but finds that yes, true love has prevailed in the end (like you couldn’t see this happening?)

Some motion pictures are films. Some are movies. And others are video, which is where “When in Rome” will probably end up.

I thought it was enjoyable but in the realm of film, it’s like junk food: enjoy it now and forget that you ate it later. It’s not a bad movie per se and there were a few laughs but for the most part there are better romantic comedies (my date suggested “Never Been Kissed” as being WAY better than this). “When in Rome” is lighthearted fodder and you could probably do worse. My favorite scene was when Nick and Beth went out on a date to a restaurant where they were served in complete darkness.

Also of interest is the “Napoleon Dynamite” connection. Efren Ramirez, who played Pedro in “Napoleon Dynamite,” plays Lance’s assistant Jose who videotapes his tricks. Also the final bit of music, “The Promise,” was featured first in “Napoleon Dynamite.”

My grade: C+

26
Feb
10

Movie Review: Edge of Darkness

It must be the “conspiracy” edge of darkness…

Starring Mel Gibson, Ray Winstone, Danny Huston, Bojana Novakovic. Directed by Martin Campbell. Based on the British TV series of the same name created by Troy Kennedy-Martin

Dry, somewhat disjointed, but it picks up by the end.

Mel Gibson returns to headlining a film with this cinematic remake of the 1995 BBC TV series, “Edge of Darkness.” Gibson is Boston police detective Thomas Craven, a man who lives alone and on one particular weekend is waiting for his daughter Emma (Novakovic) to arrive. Emma goes to college and is a research assistant at a company called Northmoor. She doesn’t tell him exactly what she does except to say “I’m a glorified lab assistant.” Thomas is fine with that and things are going swimmingly until Emma pukes into an empty soup bowl and her nose begins bleeding. As they rush out of the house to go to the hospital a car pulls up and a guy in a mask shouts “CRAVEN!” before using a double-barreled shotgun to blast a hole through her chest. She flies backwards through the front door, the car peels off, and Thomas is left with his only daughter now dead.

Partners, friends, and other officers arrive on the scene and Craven is in a place he doesn’t want to be: the victim of a crime. His friend Whitehouse (Jay O. Sanders) tries to comfort him, saying that the Department will treat it as an “officer involved” incident. They expect him to take some time off for grieving purposes and they want to run through every file he has, spinning the idea that the gunman was aiming for Thomas instead of his daughter. Not believing that for a second, Craven goes out for answers with a side of vengeance.

Piece by piece we get to know Emma as Thomas gets to know the daughter he thought he knew. She worked for a company called Northmoor. At some point she became involved with a group of activists and had helped them get into, and out of, Northmoor. What Northmoor was doing and why, and how his daughter got involved in any of it, is the cloud of mystery Thomas is flying through.

Craven’s world is slowly dragged into the “conspiracy sphere”: bugged rooms, paranoid people, sharp dressed agents in SUV’s with tinted windows, etc (even though Mel starred in a film called “Conspiracy Theory,” he was relatively clueless in this one). Thomas traces a 9mm his daughter was carrying to her boyfriend Burnham (Shawn Roberts) who gives Thomas his daughter’s personal belongings duffle bag. Checking out her apartment he finds it broken into and her computer taken. Her best friend Melissa talks with him about Emma getting involved with the activists. She’s promptly killed after.

Enter Jedburgh (Winstone). He’s the guy that “stops people from connecting Point A to Point B,”; hired hitman, assassin, what-have-you. Jedburgh is brought in to keep tabs on Thomas Craven for Northmoor because Craven is the father of the girl considered a “security risk.” Thomas and Jedburgh meet, Jedburgh gives him an idea of who he is, Craven accepts this and continues doing what he does.

And finally the villain behind it all: Jack Bennett (Huston). Bennett is the head of Northmoor which not only keeps stock of items used for nuclear weaponry but its R&D division pumps money into the Massachusetts economy, and that’s just on paper. What the public doesn’t know and what we come to learn is that Northmoor is developing nuclear arms for foreign countries under their specs. Also, they gave “irradiated gas” to the activists and poisoned Emma Craven. Thomas is running out of options and against the clock as he tries putting the pieces together and exposing those who were complicit in his daughter’s death.

The movie is a long, slow train that heads for what could be called a “slambang” end. All the clues that are laid in front of us for the first hour slowly begin paying off and when the body count begins to rise, we see the “full extent of the conspiracy.” There are several twists and turns and by the end everyone dies. Everyone. (See also: “Hamlet,” “The Departed”)

Director Martin Campbell decided to re-adapt his 80’s British show in an American environment, choosing Boston because of its English and Irish influences. Campbell is known for previous drama/action movies such as “The Mask of Zorro,” and “Vertical Limit,” as well as the James Bond movies, “GoldenEye,” and “Casino Royale.” While “Edge of Darkness” does contain brutal realism within its violence (there are no pre-meditated vengeance camera shots) the acts are SUDDEN and the audience isn’t prepared, giving a sense of realism. Another plus for the movie is the fact that Campbell made Gibson’s character emote through most of the range of human emotions, even though his character is naïve (a Boston cop not knowing about conspiracy? Really?)

The major flaw for this film is the script. Watching it feels like someone edited the breathing room out of a TV show or rather constructed a film out of the best parts of one and structurally it’s apparent. According to reports the initial script had to be re-written to make it more “action oriented” and in doing so there’s a slapdash feeling to the pacing of scenes. The British sensibilities added to the story (the hitman confronting Craven, the voice of his daughter directing him to find justice) speak more to British films than American ones and could’ve been left out.

Can I honestly recommend this one? As long as you realize that it’s not the action packed movie advertised to you (nor is it really a psychological drama), you’re good to go. I would suggest matinee or the dollar theatre.

My grade: B-

25
Feb
10

Movie Review: The Road

Falling trees, cannibalism, suicide, and a long walk across post-apocalyptic America.

Starring Viggo Mortensen, Kodi Smit-McPhee, Charlize Theron, and Robert Duvall. Directed by John Hillcoat. Based on the book by Cormac McCarthy.

Oh future, why are you so bleak? What happened to flying cars, food pills, jetpacks, or anything on “Star Trek?”

The apocalypse has come and Man (Mortensen) lives in a cabin with his pregnant wife(Theron). Something catches woodland areas on fire and the world goes to hell in a handbasket. She has the child, a son (Smit-McPhee), and for a while they make it while the world outside is in chaos. Eventually she can no longer make it through the desolation and, late one night, strips down to nothing and disappears into the winter night.

“The Road” is a “road movie” by most standards (people traveling across America for a singular goal) as much as it is a post-apocalyptic movie in the vein of “Road Warrior,” and “Children of Men.” This is a world in which the sky is set on gray overcast all day, every day; a world in which trees are dying and falling left and right while horrendous fires consume forests. Men have taken to cannibalism by gathering in large groups and killing any outsiders and eating them, especially any children. There is no fuel left to find and no birds fly in the sky. The place is as depressing as it is desolate.

Through the movie we have no real background on Mortensen’s character; he doesn’t even have a name (then again, neither did the horse in that America song). He’s just a man standing against the end of days; a savage Grizzly Adams who keeps the fire inside him going for reasons known only to him.

His son travels with him but aside from being his son, there’s not a lot of connection between the two. The son, just born in the beginning of this Armageddon, doesn’t remember or know days of sunlight, or birds, or any of the happier days that his father can call upon during sleep. He desperately wants to meet another kid, to go out and play, to see his mother again, or just to be happy.

Following his wife’s last words to go south and get to the coast, the two do just that. With the only narration being Mortensen’s feelings on the oblivion surrounding him we piece together now so much what happened as what the world became: animals mainly out for themselves, or just to be left alone. The duo is cold, hungry, dirty, and want to part ways with the other but need to stay together to survive. Along the way they meet an old man (Robert Duvall), packs of marauders, and a guy who steals their stuff but spares them. And the road they’re on is long, cracked, and barren.

This is more of a visual-intellectual movie than say “Children of Men,” or the “Mad Max” movies. As shown in his previous film, “The Proposition,” Hillcoat uses long takes and exposures to give the audience a feeling of being there. And also like his previous film he likes pitting characters on a quixotic quest across the barren wilds.

The film is a journey. It’s a brutal, honest character study of two people as they make their way across the landscape for the purpose of getting to the ocean. There’s nothing else to do and nothing else to live for but they try to not let it on. Meanwhile, Death itself surrounds them in the form of houses where groups host cannibalism and farms where entire families have committed suicide. It’s a story of struggle and survival between man and man and man and a crumbling environment.

Did I like this film? Yes. It’s cerebral, bleak, but beautiful in its portrayal of oblivion. Mortensen has always been a good actor and this film showcases how great he really can be. Impressive as well is newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee whp plays his son.

Watch for “Proposition” alum Guy Pearce in a small role at the end, as well as Molly Parker playing his wife.

My grade: A-

25
Feb
10

Movie Review: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus

Visually fascinating and bleedin’ boring.

Starring Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Verne Troyer, Johnny Depp, Jude Law, Colin Farrell and Andrew Garfield. Directed by Terry Gilliam

I’m not a big fan of fantasy movies. There are a few I’ve liked such as “Legend” (Tom Cruise, Tim Curry, Mia Sara) the “Lord of the Rings” saga, and even “Stardust,” but Terry Gilliam is a different type of fantasy movie director. On one hand I can appreciate the fact that the guy can craft a scene and make it feel three-dimensional through the use of various lenses. On the other his ambition can exceed his grasp and the story he’s trying to tell suffers. Such is the case with “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.”

The film opens with a wagon that’s seen better days navigating the streets of London like a naval carrier. It stops outside a bar and the stage unfolds. A guy (Garfield) dressed up as the messenger god Mercury traverses the stage, calling for people to hear of the exploits of the 1,000-year-old Doctor Parnassus (Plummer). A drunken guy climbs onstage and is thrown into a mirror. Once inside he is treated to a few punches from Valentina (Cole) and his undoing is wherever his imagination takes him, which happens to be jellyfish aliens that release him to crash to earth where he stumbles into a bar that explodes soon after he enters it.

And who is Doc Parnassus? Parnassus was once a monk living a thousand years ago. He held a sacred order in one of those inaccessible mountain areas where it snows all the time. On a personal note I’ve always wondered how these places are made, why they have a fairly decent population, etc. (movies never explain this). The monastery’s monks share a magic that allows them to float on carpets and their one mantra is that by telling stories the world continues to perpetuate existence. Hence, if no one tells stories then the world ceases to exist. The Devil (Tom Waits, wouldn’t ya know?) visits the Doc and gets him to gamble. The Doc wins and the Devil gives him immortality as well as the “itch” and in return, Parnassus becomes the Devil’s pet project.

Fast forward to modern day where Parnassus falls in love with a woman at first sight. He makes another deal with the Devil to become young and youthful again but the Devil puts in a stipulation: his first child would become the property of El Diablo once they turned 16. Parnassus’s wife turns 60 and dies during childbirth. Parnassus now finds himself an aged, immortal single father who has to keep the secret of his pact with the Devil from his daughter. This little fact becomes the subtext the movie rides on.

Fate or fortune intervenes when the crew of Anton (Garfield), Valentina (Cole), and Percy (Troyer) find a man (Ledger) hanging from the bottom of a bridge. When he comes to he can’t remember who he is, why he was hanging from the bottom of the bridge, etc. He exerts his wile, professional demeanor, and smooth capacity for salesmanship and brings money and attention to the traveling troupe’s show. It also attracts the Russian mobsters that tried killing him by hanging. He throws himself through the mirror (the entrance/exit of Parnassus’ mind) to get away from them.

For a moment let me discuss the mirror. The mirror allows people to enter a world they imagine. If more than one person enters the one with the most vivid, or prevalent, imagination trumps any other imagination. Otherwise the world is whatever the main person’s makes it. Eventually the “ride” ends when the Devil comes to claim the souls of the pure, part of the pact Parnassus makes with him.

Back to Ledger’s character Tony Shepherd. Tony apparently took money from the Russian mob for a children’s charity and didn’t know they were laundering their money through it. Or that’s the story he tells. While in the “mind” of Parnassus, Tony’s face keeps changing and it symbolically reflects the changing of his lies. He goes from looking like Johnny Depp, to Jude Law, then finally Colin Farrell. All the while he tries holding onto his flute which he shoves down his throat in order to keep his windpipe from crushing while hanging.

Note: this probably makes more sense while you watch it as opposed to me translating it on the page here.

So how did I feel about this one? If you’ve worked a full 8-10 hour day you would seriously need some coffee to get through this one. There are some really cool visual moments but Gilliam’s leaning on CG environments doesn’t always work and some instances look as if the graphics weren’t completed. The story flounders majorly and Ledger’s death caused various shifts in the movie. Or maybe Gilliam isn’t great on directing the “quiet moments” of the movie as opposed to the fantastical sequences. Whichever it may be I was hoping for more “umph” from the movie or at least something that felt more magical. This felt like someone going through the motions interjecting sad footnotes along the way.

And hey, I may not be the audience on this one; this plays more for those fans of Gilliam’s work. I liked “Tim Bandits,” and “Brazil” is almost a guilty pleasure for me, but that’s it. If you’re a Gilliam fan, this may be your movie.

Most of the actors do well with the parts they have to play. Plummer is good, Waits as the Devil was interesting, and Ledger worked for the scenes he was in but again, the tonal shifts with the various actors playing his character throw the story off. Lily Cole was beautiful and did a great job. Then again, the story didn’t really feel complete to begin with. My friend John said that it’s a literal re-translation of the Parnassus tale and I’ll have to research that…

Can I honestly recommend this? I recommend coffee (or some form of caffeine) before seeing it but if you’re a true blue Gilliam fan, go for it. Otherwise you may want to rent it.

My grade: C

25
Feb
10

Movie Review: Youth in Revolt

I know this because Francois knows this…

Starring Michael Cera, Portia Doubleday, Jean Smart, Steve Buscemi, Zach Galifianakis, Fred Willard, Justin Long, and Ray Liotta. Directed by Miguel Arteta. Based on the book, “Youth in Revolt: the Adventures of Nick Twisp” by C.D. Payne

Meet Nick Twisp (Cera), certified and bona fide wuss. His unemployed mother Estelle (Smart) lives off the child support checks of his dad, George (Buscemi) and shacks up with any guy who will look her direction; the guy she’s currently with is Jerry (Galifianakis), a trucker and habitual liar. Nick’s dad is doing the midlife crisis-thing; he drives a BMW and his live-in girlfriend Lacey (Ari Graynor) is young, hot, and blonde.

Nick is a sixteen-year-old sitting in a sea of sexual stagnation. He’s the “nice guy” when all the attractive girls are looking for macho jerks. His record collection contains jazz love songs and would love for Frank Sinatra to be played once a day. French films are his specialty; at the video store he was renting a copy of Fellini’s “La Strada.” In short, there’s no way he’s going to get laid and even he knows that. His only solace is the fact that his friend Lefty (Erik Knudsen) isn’t getting any and his weird neighbor Mr. Ferguson (Willard) is too busy being a political activist.

Fate intervenes in the form of three sailors who show up with a 70s clunker they paid Jerry $900 for. The car blew up a few blocks down the road and they found a banana peel in the engine; they’re pissed and they want their money back. Upon Nick relaying the info Jerry decides to take them on vacation with the new Cadillac he just bought (with the sailors’ $900).

Cut to Ukiah. Jerry is borrowing a friend’s place (read: decrepit trailer) by the beach. Upon return from the showerhouse Nick meets Sheeni Saunders, a girl his age. She takes to Nick’s awkwardness and finds it cute. Showing Nick around her home he finds out that her dad is a lawyer and both are majorly Christian. Nick finds that Sheeni wants to move to France but really wants to travel the world. By the end his vacation, Nick is in love and must find a way to get back to Ukiah.

Enter Francois Dillinger. The Tyler Durden to his Jack; the devil on his shoulder. Francois wears a light blue long-sleeved shirt and white pants, smokes cigarettes, and acts like the badass Nick wishes he was. Through a series of events involving the Cadillac and a POS trailer Jerry bought, Francois sets a business on fire. Nick’s mom’s new love interest Officer Lance Wescott (Liotta) suggests getting Nick out of town so it’s back up to Ukiah.

But everything doesn’t go as swimmingly as possible. Sheeni’s parents know what’s happened and send her to a private, all French-speaking school. Her better-than-you well-to-do boyfriend Trent (Jonathan B. Wright) is also switching to the school. Sitting in Ukiah with newfound friend Vijay Joshi (Adhir Kalyan), the two hatch a plot to meet up with her to bring her back. When the police here of Nick’s location, he tries to keep the tailspin under control in the ultimate hope of getting laid before going to Juvenile Hall.

I liked the movie and it was funnier than I thought it would be. Let me address some questions up front: is it funny? Yes, far funnier than you would think although it may not be for everyone. This is designed more for “emo”/indie likings as opposed to having a strong, male character presence (that I don’t think Cera could pull of just yet). Is it funnier than the trailers? Yes. There are moments in the film, specific for it, that are laugh-out-loud funnier than what you see in the previews.

Cera is definitely in his element here with the character Nick feeling somewhat like Paulie Bleeker from “Juno.” Both are awkward, sensitive, aware of their surroundings (with deep cynicism), and do not have any clue as to how to act/re-act to women. Bleeker went into sex casually while Nick beats himself up trying to get to it.

The rest of the cast do well enough and Portia Doubleday holds her own. Justin Long shows up as Sheeni’s druggie brother Paul (who ends up running off with Lacey). M. Emmet Walsh plays Sheeni’s father. Steve Buscemi (where has he been?) and a few others show up just to be a part of it. Really, this movie is more for Portia and Michael.

My only complaint about this movie is that I’m not a huge fan of animation and certain segments of this movie “wrapped up” events via animation. Some of it was funny but again, not a big fan.

Do I recommend this one? If you’re of the emo/nerd/geek/indie variety of person, yes. Would I recommend full price? I recommend matinee initially but if there’s nothing else to be watched, sure.

My grade: B

06
Jan
10

Top Ten Movies of 2009

What a year it has been for movies. From a film for fanboys (“Watchmen”) to a teeny-bopper supernatural romance (“New Moon”), from a Jarhead visiting a world of blue people (“Avatar”) to ugly aliens visiting our own (“District 9”), from man’s continuing struggle to against the machine (“Terminator Salvation”) to the machines having taken over and a scientist’s soul divided into mini-creations trying to survive (“9”), from the return of 80’s cartoons as live action (“G.I. Joe”) to the return of 80’s horror (“The Stepfather”) and everything in between (there were TWO movies about mall security cops), it truly has been a year.

As far as film goes and in my own opinion it’s been a tough year. One can blame the economic recession/depression for monetary aspects, but it’s been an overall success for the Industry for the year. This year was more about the aftermath of the 2007-2008 writers strike than any other single factor.

It was difficult making this year’s list because the overall feeling from watching movies this year was “meh.” I enjoyed quite a few movies, but the indies seemed to have peaked the year that “No Country for Old Men” saw release and the blockbusters haven’t held the caliber of “Iron Man” (although “G.I. Joe” was more fun than “Transformers 2”) Another problem with constructing the list was that three of my favorite films I saw this year (“Frost/Nixon,” ‘The Wrestler,” “Gran Torino”) were limited release 2008 in cities such as NY and LA and therefore had to be struck from the list.

Here, in order of release/when I viewed them, are my Top Ten movies of 2009 and my thoughts:

“Star Trek” – “Alias” and “Lost” creator JJ Abrams was given the keys to Kirk and Company and made a fun and enjoyable movie that was truly a reason to go to the movie theatre. Chris Pine channeled a bit of Shatner while Zach Quinto did a spot-on Spock. Some have called it “Star Trek for Star Wars fans” and that may have a bit of truth to it, but it doesn’t take away from being a solid, enjoyable film.

“Up” – If this year had a theme it would be “films that other people thought shouldn’t work but did.” “Up” was being crucified before it got to the theatres. I saw an article where “Wall Street” experts were predicting it as a failure for Pixar. The result? A heartfelt, beautifully colored solid story about a former balloon salesman uprooting his house for the ultimate adventure of his life taking along a stowaway who needs a father figure. It may not have the technology of “Avatar” but the story was original and solid and Pixar up’d their technology work with the brilliance of their color palette.

“The Hangover” – A movie I probably would not have watched had it not been for the free screening. The initial WB test screening went so well they ordered a sequel, which I had never heard of happening before. My brother and I went to a PACKED screening at the Commerce Crossings theatre two weeks in advance. Walking out of the movie my brother gave it the best endorsement I’ve ever heard for a movie: “I would pay to see that again.” So would I.

“District 9” – Following “Moon,” (which gets Honorable Mention) director Neil Blomkamp took racial prejudice in South Africa and changed it to alienation of aliens. Shot on a limited budget and handheld/doc-style, it was an innovative sci-fi film and one that should raise the bar for doing science fiction films.

“Inglourious Basterds” – Tarantino threw everything but the blender into this one: a hodge-podge of war films, exploitation, film geekness, and World War II. This film ran the risk of being exclusively for those who love films and/or Tarantino and while that concept may seem to be running on fumes, and trust me it has its faults, overall it tied together at the end. It’s not “Kill Bill” or “Pulp Fiction,” but it’s a worthwhile addition to the Tarantino catalog.

“Capitalism: A Love Story” – One of the most personal of Michael Moore’s films and his best since, “Bowling for Columbine.” It got snubbed for next year’s Academy Awards and that just goes to show Californians DO love their money…

“Paranormal Activity” – Most likened to being this decade “Blair Witch,” this really IS the little movie that could. Done for $15,000 and shot in one location this preyed on those times when you sit in a house, alone, and hear the creaking of the floors, strange noises, etc. This is a film that works best on people who have imaginations, as opposed to those who enjoy the “idiotic group of college teenagers going out to an abandoned shack” formula. I caught a late showing on a Tuesday night and couldn’t get the final scene outta my head. On DVD next week!

“The Blind Side” – So I had to put another “heartwarming” movie on the list. It wasn’t groundbreaking and you could tell the smarminess from the get-go, but I enjoyed the film. Not everything I watch has to be earth-shattering or socially conscious; sometimes it’s nice to fit in an “uplifting” movie.

“Me and Orson Welles” – Charming, amusing movie rooted in its when and where. I am not a big fan of Orson Welles as a person or his personality, but Christian McKay did such a spot-on job with playing Orson Welles it’s uncanny. It was great speaking with Ed Hart about this one; it truly deserves to be recognized. I wish it luck.

“Avatar” – I initially thought against putting this in the Top Ten but Cameron’s attention to detail and use of 3-D technology make this one to be seen. It’s not a great story; in fact, you’ve already seen it as “Dune,” “Dances with Wolves,” etc. The attention to detail and world of Pandora that Cameron created are what sets this above the others.

There are others that deserve mention (“Moon,” “Zombieland”) but these were the ten best for the year (that I watched). Feel free to give your comments. Happy holidays and see you at the movies!

Chas Andrews