Thursday, August 30, 2007
An explantion is probably necessary to begin this review. I have not been aboard the Judd Apatow bandwagon. Seeing the Will Ferrell movies puts me at about 50%, but I still haven’t sat down and watched The 40 Year Old Virgin straight through and I completely missed Knocked Up. Yet I couldn’t say no to Superbad. Maybe it was the 70s style advertising because it definitely wasn’t the cast. Not knocking any of them, but prior to Superbad I wouldn’t have been waiting in line because their name was on the poster. Well maybe I should be kinder to Michael Cera, I did know that he was talented but then again I didn’t watch Arrested Development with any regularity. Shows how much I cared. He definitely shows that he has all the skills to be to starring in funny pictures for decades to come. It is all about awkwardness and perfect timing. The health class line killed me dead. Plus he was actually sympathetic unlike Jonah Hill’s asshole character. Thankfully he had enough funny lines to at least even out the complete dickishness of his actions. He should have got arrested over that line about scratching his back. What a prick. And in no universe does he get that girl in the end. I feel that this is misleading the youth of America. As for McLovin, I can see it getting old after repeat viewings but for now it may have been the best arc of the movie. That could have been because I thought the scenes with the police officers were actually funny and didn’t hurt the movie. Just there constant use of the name McLovin, the dragging him out of the party in handcuffs scene, and another of my favorite lines, “I’m sorry that I blocked your cock.” On top of all that vulgarity, there is a nice message about the perils of teenage drinking and something about friendship ... maybe I don’t know I think the two of them did something inappropriate in the basement at the end of the day.
So Superbad was really fricking funny. There was a tremendous completion percentage on the jokes which always makes for a better movie. And lots and lots of profanity. I loves me some swear words. Hence I liked Superbad and am completely okay with it making a shitload of cash.
8 out of 10
Wednesday, August 29, 2007
Stardust is not the most easily definable film I have ever seen. Is adult fantasy a movie genre or just a category of pornography? This was a fun 2-hour journey into a different world without pandering to the younger folk. The characters were interesting, the acting was strong, and the story held together even with all the ridiculousness flying around. I am going to put the success of this movie on Matthew Vaughn. There may be some bias from my love of Layer Cake, but he keeps this movie steady by concentrating on the characters instead of the magical world they inhabit. Skipping Robert De Niro for the time being, the most memorable performance clearly came from Michelle Pfeiffer. I praised her work in Hairspray where she played an evil bitch, well this time she is an actual evil witch and plays it to the limit. She seems to glory in stooping around as the dried up aging witch. I wanted to talk about Pfeiffer before De Niro because I still have no idea how to judge his work here. Robert De Niro gay sky pirate is definitely something that stays with you. The problem is that it is so distracting that it is the only thing I remember from those scenes. That’s Vito Corleone/Travis Bickle/Jimmy Conway/Neil McCauley talking with a lisp and wearing a dress. Umm…at least its better than wasting his talents on Meet the Parents. Charlie Cox and Claire Danes have just the right chemistry as the bickering leads that eventually live happily ever after. For Danes this may have been as good as her work in Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines but I don’t want to go on record with that. I have no idea who Charlie Cox is but from this point forward I can use Stardust as a reference. The rest of the characters are predominately there for comic relief, which is okay since most of the jokes work. You have the 100-year old man who uses martial arts to guard the wall, all of the princes killing each other, Pfeiffer turning the goat into a man who acts like a goat and turning a man into a woman who is immediately intrigued by his new female body, De Niro trying really hard to be butch in front of his crew, and all of Ricky Gervais’ too few scenes. If only there was Andre the Giant, this could have been a classic movie.
I already know that Stardust will be a film that I will watch over and over again once it pops up on cable. It has just enough depth to so the story works but never takes itself seriously. All the actors are having fun which always helps with this type of movie. Plus I now have another director whose work I can eagerly anticipate. I can't ask for much more than that.
8 out of 10
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
So has anything changed from 2 to 3? The answer is no. Does that matter? The answer once again is no. This is one of those rare times when the lack of change was a good thing. You have great characters, why change? You have a good approach to action scenes, why change? You have Greengass’s seizure inducing visual style, why change? Of course what was missing was 3 to 4 musical numbers, maybe a running time of 3 and half hours, and definitely more shit should have blown up, but I never said The Bourne Ultimatum was perfect. What it did provide was another chapter in the continuing story of Jason Bourne. And it is the continuity of characters and plot that lifts the series as a whole. The timeline is real tight for this go around. I liked that the entire movie takes place in between the Russian climax and the New York epilogue of the second movie. So what at first was just a slick ending to The Bourne Supremacy now takes on a deeper meaning. Although some points have to be docked for the NYC scene taking place in the summer in Supremacy and the winter in Ultimatum plus I think the phone buzzed in one and rang in the other but hey it was all about the effort. I also applaud them going through and completing the amnesia plotline. In the end Jason Bourne now knows he is David Webb and has regained his memories plus everyone within the government who took part in his brainwashing, from the upper levels of the CIA to the lead doctor, have all been brought to justice. This leads them without a clear reason for a fourth film and hopefully that convinces them not to slowly bleed this great franchise to death. As for the characters, I couldn’t be happier with what went down in Ultimatum. Damn near everyone was either brought back or at least shown onscreen and there was no better moment for me than when the Black Briar files were being looked over and Adebisi flashed onscreen for a second. That was in addition to having Brian Cox’s taped confession from Supremacy being played along with the continual mentions and flashbacks to Franka Potente’s Marie. The still breathing characters brought back were Julia Stiles, Joan Allen, and Joan Allen’s assistant guy. Allen’s Pamela Landy was a legit callback since she is high up enough in the CIA for her to be brought in when Bourne pops back up. I can’t say the same for Stiles’s Nicky Parsons. It didn’t ruin the story or anything, but it is hilarious that of all the foreign CIA offices Bourne breaks into he just happens to stumble upon the office that Nicky works in. Really? Ah well, at least she wasn’t brought back to be Bourne’s new girl. Marie’s body is barely cold. I should spend a couple sentences praising Matt Damon. This character just plays to his strengths. Bourne is not loud or flashy; instead Damon gets to be a taciturn ex-assassin who is always in control while still conveying the inner turmoil he is constantly going through. Plus he violently kicks people asses without being showy. The action is made even better by the work of the director Paul Greengrass whose frenetic camera style fits perfectly with Bourne’s actions. So instead of long drawn out kung fu one on ones, Bourne dispatches everyone in 1 or 2 moves with the editing making everything move faster. Even when there is a longer fight the violence is amplified by Greengrass so that when Bourne is forced to kill again you see the effort it takes and the emotional toll it took out of him. I really couldn't ask for more out this movie.
It may have taken the whole summer but The Bourne Ultimatum finally gave me a big flashy film that delivered everything that I wanted. What a wonderful thing. They were able to close out the trilogy with another strong entry that includes the same levels of tension, violence, and chase scenes. The whole thing just brings a smile to my face.
9 out of 10
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
- The Lookout
- Talk to Me
- Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
- Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End
- Hot Fuzz
- Reign Over Me
- Rescue Dawn
- Black Snake Moan
- Ocean's Thirteen
- Live Free or Die Hard
- The Simpsons Movie
- Spider-Man 3
- Mr. Brooks
- Smokin's Aces
- Blades of Glory
- Reno 911!: Miami
- 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer
- The Condemned
- Ghost Rider
July was a kickass month. It righted the 2007 ship. I am still looking for that perfect 10 movie to grab a hold of the number 1 slot. I know American Gangster, There Will be Blood, Charlie Wilson's War, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, among others are still looming but the year needs a defining movie to lead to top what is a large amount of 8s and 9s I have seen this year. Still this is better than 1 great movie and a large amount of refuse backing it up.
If for some reason you haven’t been convinced yet, Don Cheadle is one of the most talented actors working today. That type of praise is thrown around a lot, with me being a very guilty party, but damn the man is good. And thankfully he consistently finds projects that actually put his skills to use; a big plus when comparing actors. I may not have known anything about Petey Greene but I would wager a guess that Don freaking nailed it. And even if he wasn’t true to life it was a great performance. From the moment he walks on screen he is in control, starts talking, and never stops. Yes the clothes help. And yes the music helps. But Cheadle plays every note perfectly. Nothing feels forced or incredibly over-the-top. This is especially obvious when Petey goes on the air immediately after Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated and he becomes the calming influence for Washington D.C. The quiet emotion is there without Cheadle overplaying his hand. Then as Petey becomes a national name, you can see the downfall without it feeling too obvious. Don Cheadle is fricking awesome and deserves some level of accolade for this performance.
I would have been content with just praising Cheadle but Talk to Me is such a great movie because he was not working in a vacuum. Chiwetel Ejiofor nearly matches Cheadle step for step. His role may have been more understated but it is the chemistry between the DJ and his manager that drives the story. You can see Ejiofor’s manipulations and you also see how blind he was to their effects on Petey. Everything comes together in the final pool hall scene between the two of them and they both play it perfectly. Another key player pushing Cheadle to higher levels is Taraji Henson. I’ve always liked Taraji and she is completely insane here. She tears into the hair and clothes of the 60s and 70s. I also have to at least mention Martin Sheen, Cedric the Entertainer and hey what the hell I am feeling generous Mike Epps. The performances may be what I am concentrating on but the story being told is worth the price of admission. Petey Greene was a groundbreaking disc jockey that made his name as a black advocate when that was still a risky proposition and following his career rise and fall is constantly intriguing.
This will probably end up as the best movie I see all summer. I was looking forward to Talk to Me but it easily surpassed my expectations. Don Cheadle turns in another top shelf performance while not a single damn person paid to see the movie. And since it took me a full month to see it, I nearly became one of those fine people that I am trashing. Hopefully someone else somewhere else enjoyed this film too.
9 out of 10
Christian Bale has become one of those actors that I seek out whenever his name is listed at the top of the bill. This may not have been a one-man show, but Mr. Bale did the majority of the heavy lifting in Rescue Dawn. He is more than up to the task; on top of having a commanding presence, the man is always willing to drop weight for a role. This time around, since his character is as a normal American pilot, he starts the movie at a normal soldier weight. But by the end of the film he has been in a prisoner camp for many months so enter the walking skeleton. The first third of the movie is all Bale. He starts as the happy soldier who just wants to fly, then after being shot down he becomes the bewildered man trying to survive in the jungles of Laos. His naivety over the whole situation is what differentiates Rescue Dawn from other POW movies that I have seen. From the moment he is captured, Bale looks like he is bemused over what is happening to him. This continues once he is imprisoned in an actual camp with other men in varies stages of desperation. Everyone else has given up any realistic hope of escape while Bale walks in certain of the fact that he won’t be staying long. The friendship he develops with Steve Zahn and the hostility with Jeremy Davies drives the middle of the film. These were your basic prisoner camp scenes but Bale’s interaction with everyone else makes scenes of hunger and desperate escape planning work here. A lot of it is Bale’s leadership but Zahn’s childlike behavior and Davies’ paranoia while looking like Charles Manson really bring these scenes to another level. One of the problems of this film was that it was based on the true story of Bale’s character. This meant that I knew he was going to eventually get out of the camp and find his way home. I may not have known what would happen to everyone else, and I DEFINITELY wasn’t expecting decapitation, but I was never really on the edge of my seat. Once the breakout happens all of the supporting characters leave the story and it refocuses on Bale and Zahn. The last section of the movie is more great work by Bale with his growing sense of desperation as he runs out of ways to leave the jungle alive. These scenes look great because it is obvious that they filmed in a real dense jungle and you get a feel of just how difficult survival must have been. Once the rescue happens the story is wrapped up with a few light moments involving Bale’s friends slipping him away from the CIA and the heartwarming reception on his aircraft carrier.
Rescue Dawn may not be a movie that will stay with more for the rest of the my life, but it was a really good POW story. Plus I am now firmly a member of the Christian Bale fan club so I definitely enjoyed his work. Finally in a summer that has just churned out Hollywood blockbusters it is nice, and by nice I mean random and weird, to see such a tight little independent flick thrown out in July.
8 out of 10
Saturday, August 18, 2007
As is the case with the vast majority of The Simpsons episodes, the starting point is Homer is retarded. For the movie you get Homer falling in love with a pig, hanging naked Bart out to dry, ignoring Lisa’s pleas to keep the lake clean, and all that before the movie kicks into gear. The Homer and Bart dare contest that lead to Bart skating naked through Springfield was hilarious. I have no idea why they thought the movie needed full frontal Bart nudity, but there you go. Homer’s mistreatment of Bart led to the even better scenes between Bart and Flanders. These were some of the best jokes of the movie; Ned preparing the greatest hot chocolate ever, Bart going into the being throttled pose after losing Ned’s fishing pole, and all of Bart’s taunting of Homer with the picture of Homer drawn to look like Flanders. That doesn’t even include my favorite Bart scene in the whole movie where he is cocked out of his mind off of an airplane liquor bottle. Drunk children are always comedy gold. Back to Homer, of course he gets the vast majority of the jokes. There were definitely more hits than misses. All the pig jokes were funny, Homer versus the lynching mob, his escape plan out of America to Alaska, his hallucinations leading to his epiphany, and his opposite of ingenious plan to get back into the dome. Lisa and Marge get their own little subplots, which play out like all of their stories over the years. Lisa’s is superfluous and not that funny and Marge’s storyline is heartfelt and also not that funny. One of the bad things about the movie is that the creators wanted to include every single secondary character that has ever been in the show, so none of them get really more than the occasional one liner. Obviously the one liners are great, especially Ralph saying he likes men now after seeing Bart skate by naked, but come on Burns’ best line doesn’t happen until the credits. So much wasted talent. Still it was nice that they didn’t take up any space with celebrity guest stars. Albert Brooks doesn’t count because he is awesome and should always be a part of the show whenever possible. And the Tom Hanks scene was splendid. I loved that when he brushed the kid’s hair little stars popped up. All in all a really good extended episode.
Hey, I’m not complaining here. I will always love The Simpsons. It just may be my favorite television show of all time. But that is working against it here. I have hundreds of nearly perfect half-hour shows to remind me of its greatness. So the movie shows up and it is good but it had no chance of being more than a worthwhile hour and a half version of the show. There is always a chance that this could lead to a resurgence in show’s quality but I won’t hold my breath.
7 out of 10
I am just not prepared to write a glowing review of Hairspray. This is a struggle. Yes there was singing. And yes there was dancing. In fact they were done in some form of combination throughout the film. Nikki Blonsky is the unknown cast in the lead role and she just dives in headfirst. She is singing, dancing, and acting like an escaped mental patient from the first scene. No sane human being smiles as much as that girl. Then again without her acting this way I would never have heard my favorite line of the summer, “I wish every day were Negro Day!” The other great part about the main character was that her best friend was in the majority of scenes and Amanda Bynes was that best friend. I am now a lifelong fan. Where in the blue hell did this come from? I know she has been on television for the last 10 years but I never watched any of her shows. Or I make it a point not to admit to following the career paths of barely teenage girls. Could be A or it could be B. This time around it was all about the vacant stare and pigtails. Then every thing turned deliciously weird when her crazy mother tied her to bed, splashed holy water on her, and called her devil child. Fan-freaking-tastic. Since John Travolta got most of the press I guess I should at least mention him. He put on a fat suit and a wig and was still John Travolta even if he was supposed to be a fat woman. But then he danced with Christopher Walken and it was appropriately uncomfortable. I would have been offended if this movie took place and Walken was not brought on board. Michelle Pfeiffer and Queen Latifah fill the last 2 significant parent roles. Hairspray is the first of Pfeiffer’s back-to-back evil bitch roles this summer; later on she becomes an actual witch in Stardust. Not a bad deal for someone who has been away for nearly 5 years. I do take that back if she is actually this racist in real life because that’s not cool. As for the Queen, there definitely could have been more Queen but I won’t hold that against the film. Everyone who takes the lead in song or dance deserves a mention so good job Cyclops, dude from High School Musical, a girl who was not Ashanti in John Tucker Must Die, and a black dude named Seaweed. Not only is Seaweed one of the better names I have ever heard but also the man has most of the best dance scenes. Final praise goes to John Waters cameo as the flasher since it was nice to see the man who directed the original movie take part in the musical remake.
Hairspray was a great movie. Unexpected surprise does not even cut it. I legitimately enjoyed it. Still it is a musical so it gets the same treatment as animated movies and the like; I grade on a sliding scale. Hairspray tops the scale but the top only reaches 8 not 10. This would have to be some life changing singing and dancing for me to bring a musical up to 10.
8 out of 10
Thursday, August 16, 2007
The Harry Potter directing merry-go-round stops in front of David Yates (who? yeah I don't know either) this time. So it is up to him to pull off the full transition from kids games to life and death political struggle. Whereas The Goblet of Fire ends with copious amounts of shit hitting various fans, but it is The Order of the Phoenix that is 95% political intrigue and 5% Harry likes girls. That is one of the better parts of the movie distillation process, while much of the book is spent with Harry and Cho, the screenwriter took a chainsaw to it and mashed it into 10 minutes of screen-time. That left Yates with the meatier topics of Harry’s growing insanity, Umbridge’s takeover of Hogwarts, and the whup-ass Ministry of Magic battle. As luck would have it, he is able to nail all three. In fact, I was shocked with how well the connection between Voldermort and Harry’s mind was portrayed. Maybe it was the increasing skill of Daniel Radcliffe but the scene where he is finally face-to-face with Dumbledore after Nagini’s attack on Arthur Weasley is probably Radcliffe’s best acting in the series so far. This segue ways into the always great, but always minimal, Alan Rickman scenes. I would have been in favor of more Snape breaking into Harry’s mind but we only get a couple of practices then to make things worse they botched Snape’s worst memory by cutting out Harry’s mom. Ah well that’s why the book is better. Moving along to Dolores Umbridge, Imelda Staunton is just another insanely talented Brit who has been brought into the fold. And she must have done a hell of a job because I hated her on film nearly as much as I hated her in the book. Once again Yates did right by doing justice to the detention torture scene of Harry carving "I will not tell lies" into the back of his hand. God what a piece of shit, Grawp should have eaten her. Now the Ministry of Magic showdown was another part of the movie that completely exceeded my expectations. Well to be specific, Dumbledore versus Voldermort was finally a fully realized wizard duel and it looked damn sweet. Ralph Fiennes is turning Lord Voldermort into one of the best villains in cinematic history. He is having way too much fun being a human/snake hybrid. He is going to dominate The Half-Blood Prince (this does depend on child casting though) and The Deathly Hallows. As for my man, Michael Gambon, he continues to piss off Harry Potter fans while simultaneously making me more and more a fan of his version of Dumbledore. Dumbledore’s an asshole and I am glad that Gambon anticipated the book seven revelations or fell assbackwards into them … whatever.
All that is left is to praise the rest of the cast. Although I preferred crazy dirty and emaciated Gary Oldman in The Prisoner of Azkaban, it is still Gary Oldman and he gets almost 20 minutes worth of acting time before biting it. Sadly, Sirius’s death scene was another misstep. It happened too fast and there wasn’t the emotion that there should have been. Still it ain't Oldman's fault. The always fantastic Emma Thompson gets a nice Trelawney getting sacked scene. I hope they bring back drunk Trelawney hiding her booze in The Half-Blood Prince. I am going to continue listing more names. Helena Bonham Carter may have been the only actress who could do Bellatrix Lestrange justice. I loved her running away sing-songing “I killed Sirius Black!” That still leaves Maggie Smith, Robbie Coltrane, Brendan Gleeson, David Thewlis, George Harris, Julie Walters, and Jason Isaacs fill out the ridiculous cast and make me love England which in turn makes me feel bad about the Revolutionary War. As for the teens running around in the major roles, Dan Radcliffe is starting to show signs of being a damn decent actor. Everyone else is fine, maybe nothing to write home about but they don’t cause scenes to grind to a halt. Overall this was a fine entry to the franchise.
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was exactly what I hoped it would be. It was right in line with the rest of the franchise while still being able to shift focus to more serious political topics and Harry’s increasing isolation. Plus I was very pleased that the Ministry of Magic battle was done like a badass action scene, which it was. Now I am even more excited for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Voldermort is my hero.
9 out of 10